City Historic Preservation Officer Kylee Hevrdejs spoke at City Council Monday evening on the ordinance presented by the Planning Commission to prohibit tourist lodging in residential zones and redefining of tourist lodging.
Hevrdejs gave a bleak report of data that she had provided Planning on short term rentals listed online. Of 476 listings across VRBO, AirBnB and other sites, Hevrdejs said there were 299 unique property listings of which 248 could be single-family residences.
Despite Eureka Springs being the top economic producer in Carroll County, it is ranked third in housing and lowest, at 4th, in income ranking. She concluded that a housing crisis could be seen and the impact to residential zones is dangerous to the wellbeing of citizens.
Alderman Terry McClung voiced immediate skepticism to the number of single-family residences that were being used as tourist lodgings. He said that establishing an ordinance so quickly was premature, and that council should see how other cities handle their housing crises.
McClung asked if the CAPC could verify the amount of tourist lodgings through tax collections, and Hevrdejs explained that not all unique listings that could function as single-family residences were in residential zones. As for further verification of numbers through tax collections, Hevrdejs said that with not every online platform collecting taxes for the city, there was no way to get an accurate count of lodgings.
Alderman Melissa Greene backed Hevrdejs, saying that there were a multitude of ways for tourist lodgings to avoid collecting CAPC tax and that council needed this ordinance that citizens have requested for months.
The ordinance, #2311, prohibits tourist lodging properties within any residential zones in Eureka Springs. The ordinance says tourist lodgings in R-1 and R-2 zones legally operating prior to September of this year are permitted, subject to rules of grandfathered CUPs should those properties be sold. It also updated the definition of tourist lodging, as well as a fine of up to $250 per day for any tourist lodging that operates illegally within a residential zone. The ordinance passed its first reading and will be read two more times.
- Planning Commission application from Joe Hill was unanimously approved as was CAPC application for Patrick Burnett. The Application of Kyle Palmer for HDC was passed receiving only one ‘no’ vote from McClung, McClung saying he did not know who Palmer was.
- More than ten members of the Pines Subdivision gave support for the ban of tourist lodgings in residential zones.
- Ordinance #2312 passed first reading which says only a vote of City Council can remove city commissioners should a commissioner fail to participate in meetings or fail to meet the qualifications of the seat.
- Council agreed to reenter the lease agreement for the courthouse and courthouse parking lot for five years.
- Ordinance #2313 levying tax on all real and personal property in the city passed. It is required for Council to re-pass the tax each year and no changes from previous years were made.
- City Attorney Tim Weaver told aldermen that certain areas of Eureka Springs would be all but impossible to add sidewalks to due to private property lines so close to roadways. He also said that ADA compliance in steeper sections of town would not be possible, and the ordinance has been dropped.