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Peoria City Council approves short-term rental application over neighborhood objections

Peoria City Council Chambers
Tim Shelley
/
WCBU

A routine agenda item about a short-term rental permit for a property off Grandview Drive turned into an hour-long discussion around the horseshoe on the city council's role assessing the proposals.

Dimitar Atanasov and Keila Sierra's application to use the property at 2305 N. Grandview Ave. as a short-term rental was pulled off Tuesday's consent agenda of noncontroversial items to allow neighbors to weigh in ahead of the vote.

Residents in the area expressed concerns about using the property as an Airbnb-type rental. A petition circulated in the neighborhood gathered dozens of signatures in opposition.

At-large council member Zach Oyler voted with the majority to approve the petition despite neighborhood objections.

"We have not had issues with the ones that have been approved thus far. We have not have issues with the ones that the petitioners have brought forward to us prior to now," Oyler said. "And we do not have any legal business, in my opinion, to justify that it cannot go here based on location."

Oyler said the council has approved short-term rental applications throughout the city, but at-large council member Beth Jensen said they're more heavily concentrated in older neighborhoods.

"This body has become so tone deaf to neighbors, and concerns of our residents, and it's got to stop. We've got to become more pro neighborhood," Jensen said.

She said residents in these older neighborhoods want to preserve home ownership over rental concentrations to maintain a sense of community.

Jensen voted against approval, as did 1st District council member Denise Jackson and 2nd District council member Chuck Grayeb.

A STR application is considered a special use in Peoria. The Peoria City Council approves each short-term rental application on a case-by-case basis. The Peoria Planning and Zoning Commission vets proposals before they arrive to the council for a final vote.

Council could begin weighing racial equity impact

The Peoria City Council is considering adoption of incorporating a racial equity impact statement into government decision-making.

Among other things, the statement would require the city to ask how new policies, budgets, plans and programs advance racial and ethnic equity in Peoria before adoption, and require a closer look at the impact on minority communities.

At Tuesday's meeting, at-large council member John Kelly was reluctant to support the ordinance without more data.

"If we have work to do, I'm for it, but I don't want to just get into something because it sounds good," Kelly said. "I'm very willing to get into something if it has good promise."

Peoria Mayor Rita Ali said the eight committees of the Joint Commission on Racial Justice and Equity are gathering the baseline data Kelly requested, adding the ordinance is a needed step to address inequity in the community.

"It's been an issue that we have struggled with, but I would say an issue that we want to improve upon, that we have to be focused, we have to be intentional, and we have to zero in on," she said.

The ordinance returns to the council in two weeks for a second reading.

BioUrja reimburses city for grain bin explosion response

BioUrja will pay $101,000 to the city for its expenditures responding to the company's May grain bin explosion and the subsequent weeks of containment at the scene.

A grain bin exploded at BioUrja's ethanol plant on May 11. Peoria fire crews remained on scene intermittently for weeks to secure the scene and contain subsequent fire outbreaks before the remaining damaged bins were eventually demolished.

Two people were injured in the initial explosion. The company's damages were estimated at well over $2 million.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.