Green Lake City Council approves Airbnb ordinance, community takes action | News

Green Lake resident Craig Haynie speaks to City Council about the Short Term Rental Ordinance.

After about a year of discussions, the Green Lake Common Council on Monday unanimously approved an ordinance regulating short-term rentals — better known as Airbnbs and Vrbos — that requires owners of short-term rentals to get a license from the city.

Monday’s passage comes after numerous meetings of joint committees and councils debating the ordinance.

Ahead of Monday’s vote, the Common Council heard from voters and made further changes to an ordinance regulating short-term rentals at a special meeting last week on Wednesday.

Many of the changes made to the ordinance were tweaks to simplify language and reduce what some thought were overregulation. Those who spoke to the Common Council advised officials to start with a smaller, less restrictive ordinance because Green Lake is a tourist destination.

City Attorney Dan Sondalle said Green Lake’s draft ordinance mirrored similar municipal codes in other cities such as Oshkosh, while Ald. Danielle Reysen described the ordinance as less restrictive than others in Wisconsin.

“It’s not that we want to restrict [short-term rentals]; we don’t necessarily want to get rid of it, which a lot of people might think,” Reysen said, noting that some state ordinances are very lax on regulations, while others are very restrictive on rentals at short term. “Ours probably won’t even come close to being even in the middle. … We’re not even close to the most restrictive.

The ordinance is designed to allow the city to monitor short-term rentals, without too much overlap with the Tri-County Environmental Health Consortium, and requires short-term rentals to be licensed through the city.

Green Lake Airbnbs

Community members listen as Green Lake resident Christine Seno speaks to City Council.

Last month, the Common Council added a residency requirement to the ordinance that required owners of short-term rentals of properties in zoned residential neighborhoods to reside in their rental property for 30 days.

Any short-term rentals that existed before the order was signed would be exempt from this requirement. Additionally, the 30 days are not consecutive, meaning Airbnb owners would only have to stay a few days at a time over the course of a year to meet the requirement.

Short-term rentals have been a hot topic for the city for about a year. The Municipal Council has created an ad hoc commission to work on an ordinance. The committee failed to reach consensus and the matter was referred to the Common Council.

The Common Council held several meetings last spring at which it scaled back the order, after receiving feedback from members of the public.

Last week’s special meeting was chaired by Ald. Chris Foos, as Mayor Ray Radis, backed out of the short-term rental discussion in response to claims that earlier versions of the ordinance showed favoritism toward Heidel House developers. Radis and other city officials have publicly denied these allegations.

Over the past year of discussions, the conversation surrounding short-term rentals has evolved. At first, the city was looking at issues with parties and gatherings in short-term rentals that were causing problems in residential neighborhoods.

As the conversations continued, officials heard from concerned community members who felt that short-term rentals were preventing families from moving to Green Lake.

During the last meeting, the Common Council heard from members of the public regarding the ordinance in a crowded council chamber.

One of them was Green Lake resident Christine Seno, who said the city’s downtown saw new life last summer with the opening of several new businesses such as the hot- dogs Walk the Dog and KDR Wood Design Co.

Seno attributed some of that success to short-term rentals attracting tourists who patronize local businesses.

“Eighty percent of the people who come [to local businesses] come either from vacation rentals or foot traffic and about 20% come from full-time residents,” she said.

Similarly, Green Lake Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Lisa Meier said most short-term rentals in the city are near Big Green Lake or downtown.

She added that tourism provides revenue to local businesses through guests, as well as to the city and the chamber through the tourist tax.

“We have to embrace what we are known for; our lake is who we are,” Meier said. “We have to realize that the tourist tax money we get supports our initiatives, beautifies this community and organizes events in the area.”

She recommended the city start with a smaller ordinance before creating too many restrictions that discourage tourism.

Aldus. Jon McConnell said he had no problem with short-term rentals in commercially zoned neighborhoods or other areas designed for business.

His concern is when short-term rentals begin to invade a residential area and families are replaced by out-of-state investors.

“It’s a business in a residential neighborhood,” McConnell said of some short-term rentals. “One of the reasons I live in a residential area is because I don’t have a business nearby.”

At last week’s meeting, the Common Council voted to change the wording of the ordinance to require anyone operating a short-term rental to obtain a license to better align with Tri-County Environmental Health. Consortium. Previously, the ordinance only required those who operated an Airbnb for more than 16 nights to obtain a license.

In addition, the Common Council simplified language regarding rental owners keeping records of their guests and removed a paragraph regulating the use of hibachi and gas grills on balconies or under overhanging structures.

Finally, officials changed the verbiage regarding the ordinance’s applicable zoning districts to apply to zoning districts that allow residential use.

In addition to making changes to the language of the ordinance and reducing the regulations last week on Wednesday, Reysen proposed to the Common Council to review the ordinance after the first tourist season it would come into effect.

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