Evanston aldermen renew efforts to regulate vacation rentals

Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) expressed reservations with a newly proposed ordinance to regulate vacation rentals at Monday’s City Council meeting.

Rachel Janik/The Daily Northwestern

Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) expressed reservations with a newly proposed ordinance to regulate vacation rentals at Monday’s City Council meeting.

Rachel Janik, Reporter

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Evanston officials Monday debuted a new ordinance to regulate vacation rentals, their third attempt to tackle the controversial issue.

The Planning and Development Committee last tried to address vacation rentals in April, when aldermen voted down two proposals and asked city staff to take a closer look.

Under the latest proposal, residents who want to rent out their homes for less than 30 days must apply for a special-use permit from the City Council, only after getting a recommendation from the Zoning Board of Appeals. The city would regulate vacation rentals as a subset of bed-and-breakfast establishments.

The issue flared up in September after some residents on Ashland Avenue complained about disturbances at a rented home during Northwestern’s football season. Concerned citizens have been addressing the council for months, both to defend and condemn the legality of vacation rentals in Evanston.

Kim Novi, a resident who opposes vacation rentals, applauded the city for working toward a solution.

“We feel that we’ve been heard,” Novi said. “And we appreciate this.”

Maureen O’Donnell, who lives next to the Ashland Avenue property that first drew attention to the issue, said she was relieved to see an ordinance that “has teeth.”

Some aldermen were not sold on the broad proposal.

Ald. Donald Wilson (4th) cited what he called “the obvious exceptions,” namely people who are in the process of selling the property they are renting out, and residents who are renting for the short term due to special circumstances such as heavy repairs or a fire.

Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) suggested the ordinance include an exemption for residents stuck in such situations.

The committee asked city staff to adjust the ordinance to include an exemption for buildings that are for sale, as well as a process to request a personal exemption from the ordinance. The proposal was thus sent back to committee for further review.

Monday also marked the first official meeting of the council’s new term. All incumbent aldermen were sworn in after Alds. Judy Fiske (1st), Delores Holmes (5th) and Mark Tendam (6th) won re-election in April. The other aldermen ran unopposed.

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