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Peoria City Council considers limiting 'special use' short-term rentals

The Peoria City Council plans to continue their discussion on short term rentals at their Tuesday, Dec. 12 meeting at city hall.
Collin Schopp
The Peoria City Council plans to continue its discussion of short-term rentals at Tuesday's meeting at city hall.

Short-term rentals, like Airbnb properties, are a long-running, controversial proposition in Peoria.

The issue has taken center stage at several city council meetings, most recently when the Community Development Department outlined possible changes that would tighten city regulations for “special use” short-term rentals.

Assistant director of community development Leah Allison said the report on ordinance changes was originally requested by council member Denis Cyr.

“We started with the current regulations, which have a limitation of 3% within a neighborhood, or a quarter-mile radius,” Allison said. “We offered, or reported that council could consider changing those numbers and adding a buffer, separation between short-term rentals.”

The report proposes decreasing the allowable percentage of short-term rentals from 3% to 1% in any given neighborhood. It also would add a 1,500-foot separation buffer between the properties.

It's important to note, this would only apply to "special use" short-term rentals. As Allison explained, "permitted use" falls under a different category.

“‘Permitted use’ is one where the homeowner is actually present during the rental stay,” she said. “So it’d be, for example, renting a bedroom while the homeowner is continuing to reside there. That is a ‘permitted use.’”

“Special use” specifically applies to situations where the owner is not present at the property during the rental period. This is how many rentals through Airbnb and similar services function.

Of the complaints the department has received about short-term rentals, Allison said very few, if any, come from properties that are "permitted use." The most common complaints are about short-term rental guests taking up street parking. They've also received a noise complaint on at least one occasion.

The Community Development Department did not go into detail in the initial report about whether there are many Peoria neighborhoods approaching the current limit of 3% short-term rental saturation. Even if they are, a change to policy won't decrease the number of current such rentals in a neighborhood. Allison said the change would only apply to new special-use applications.

The council remains split on how to address the issue.

At-large member John Kelly said he’s “neutral,” adding he "votes with policy.”

“The idea that somebody can follow all the rules and come to the city council for the council to approve a special use,” Kelly said. “There doesn’t have to be any rationale in our policy that could deny that person that approval.”

Kelly saids he's concerned approaching short-term rental policy in this way could lead to council members voting for or against approval because of their opinion of the property owner. He calls the lack of a need for a reason to deny them "arbitrary."

“To me, that is not a good way to make law,” Kelly said. “So, I might look like a proponent of short-term rentals, but what I am a proponent of is established policy.”

Other council members, like Mike Vespa, said they vote no when extenuating factors raise doubts about the safety or location of a short-term rental. He referenced one request he voted no on from the Nov. 28 meeting where the property was near an elementary school.

“I voted no based on that, even though there wasn’t really any public opposition,” Vespa said. “I think this was one of those situations where there was no neighborhood association to speak up for the residents.”

Vespa takes into account concerns from Peoria's various neighborhood associations, adding he regularly hears from them when a new short-term rental is proposed.

“If you have a house that’s a short-term rental, you have a commercial property basically, you don’t have a neighbor,” Vespa said. “It’s not good for neighborhoods. It’s not good for feeling like you’re part of a community. But if neighborhoods welcome it, I’m not going to stop them. But I’m not going to impose it on neighborhoods that don’t want them.”

Broadly, Vespa also is concerned with the potential of a plethora of short-term rental options to cut into the operation of Peoria's hotels.

“We always have vacancies and these short-term rentals, they undercut hotels,” he said. “They compete with them. Not only are they generally not great for the neighborhoods, they’re not great for our hotels.”

Vespa sees the possible changes as “a good start.” It remains to be seen where the rest of the council will fall on the future of short term rentals in Peoria.

The council will discuss the proposal in further detail at their its meeting on Tuesday. Council members also are expected to discuss possible changes to the licensing process for short-term rental property owners. Community development is still working out the details of those changes, but expect to bring them to the table on Jan. 23.

Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.