Maryville City Council 2-25-19

Maryville City Council member Tye Parsons proposed the final language that allowed a “Vacation Rental by Owner” — VRBO — property to keep operating while city staff looks into an ordinance to address all future cases. Unlike Airbnb, VRBOs are whole houses rented out for short periods of time through online listings. Nearly a dozen residents spoke during a hearing Monday evening to address one such property at 623 W. Third St.

MARYVILLE, Mo. — After a lively discussion from nearly a dozen community members at a public hearing Monday evening, the Maryville City Council agreed to allow a short-term vacation rental property to continue operating while the city works on an ordinance to address the issue across the board.

The scene in Maryville’s packed council chambers Monday could have been transplanted to or from any number of small towns across the state or nation, all grappling with how to classify short-term lodging services like Airbnb or its cousins, HomeAway and VRBO — Vacation Rental by Owner. Unlike Airbnb, in which owners offer up rooms to visitors online, VRBOs are whole houses rented out for short periods of time. The services have given cities and towns fits as they’ve risen in popularity, forcing changes to zoning and other lodging ordinances to account for them.

Enter Tim Faris, owner of 623 W. Third St. in Maryville who no longer lives in the city and has been listing the property on VRBO since 2016. Most citizens who rose to speak at a public hearing about the property Monday live on Third Street, and expressed varying levels of objection to Faris’ VRBO — some dead-set against it, some against only large gatherings, still others only concerned about parking logistics, if anything at all.

Faris told the council that he lived in Maryville until two years ago, and still keeps two bedrooms full of items at the house. He said he has “people” who check in on the property when he’s not around.

Because there are no ordinances addressing such services, Faris had been operating the VRBO for about two years before city staff informed him he needed a special use permit for an exception to the residential zoning laws that apply to his property.

Last week, the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended the approval of such a permit that would allow more than two unrelated individuals to stay in the residence. The commission also recommended that the city council limit the permit to a maximum of 10 occupants at a time, and that all occupants be required to park off-street. Faris said the property could handle up to about eight vehicles in the driveway and garage if necessary.

After everyone had their say during Monday’s hearing, council members showed off local government at its finest, deliberating and asking further questions of both Faris and his neighbors while they discussed among themselves what would make the fairest outcome.

Ultimately, at the suggestion of council member Tye Parsons, the council agreed in a unanimous 4 to 0 vote to grant the special use permit for a 120-day period with the stipulation that the property not be rented for the sole purpose of large events like wedding receptions or parties, which had been a primary complaint of some neighbors. Jason McDowell was absent from Monday’s meeting.

Council members also ditched the recommendation for mandatory off-street parking, which Mayor Rachael Martin called “unenforceable,” and a stipulation for a sign to be affixed to the property identifying it. They did include the recommended 10-person maximum.

During the 120-day period, the city also put in place a moratorium on other short-term lodging rentals while city staffers work up an ordinance that could be applied to all future cases.

“From what I’ve read and from what I see of Mr. Faris, it looks like he’s doing a fine job of vetting the people that are living there, but whatever code we set up has to be ready for someone who maybe isn’t going to be as selective as you are,” Martin told Faris during the meeting. “So I want to make sure that whatever we have in place is something that we can apply to anyone fairly….” 

City Manager Greg McDanel estimated it would take between 90 and 120 days for city staff to research and write appropriate language to present to Planning and Zoning. McDanel said the process will be open to the community at each step and the city will invite input during public workshops to adjust the language as necessary. The city will look to other municipalities that have already put in place similar ordinances for a starting point.

Main Street repairs

At the suggestion of McDanel and Public Works Director C.E. Goodall, council members voiced support for a plan to redirect Surface Transportation Program funds from the Missouri Department of Transportation to Main Street repairs.

“Main Street has deteriorated something terrible this winter; (it’s) something we haven’t seen in the eight years that I’ve been here,” Goodall told the council. “I just think it’s very important that we get that back up to where it’s expected to be. ...”

McDanel said the approximately $84,000 from the program had been earmarked for improvements to south Depot Street. Instead, the council will consider whether to include those improvements in next year’s budget, and city staff will look into using the STP funds for a new overlay on Main Street. That process wouldn’t begin until the weather warms up.

Martin said it would be the first time a new overlay had been put on Main Street in about 10 years.

City council members and McDanel each thanked crews from several departments who have worked diligently to continue to clear snow and repair roads ravaged by winter weather. 

“If they’re not plowing, they’re patching potholes,” McDanel said.

BUILD Grant

The city has continued to work with federal officials on advancing the $10.4 million South Main Corridor Improvement Project.

McDanel said that the city submitted an initial questionnaire about the project including a rough intended timeline that would have designs completed by April 2020 and a contractor begin work on the project by June 2020. Once construction begins, McDanel has previously estimated the project will likely take between 18 months and two years to complete. 

The design had previously been split into three phases when the plan was for the city to foot the entire bill. About 90 percent of phase one had been designed, but McDanel said that the city just received approval Monday from MoDOT to begin working with contractors to design phases two and three, which will now all take place in one phase thanks to the federal grant.

Budget available

The FY 2019 budget is now available for public viewing online

Hard copies can be requested at city hall.

Council members were provided with copies at Monday’s meeting.

Martin made a point to thank city staff for setting a “new standard of excellence” in the yearly Distinguished Budget Presentation Award from the Government Finance Officers Association, an award Maryville has received several years running for its easy-to-read budgets.

“We don’t stop and say, ‘Wow, we got this award,’ because we get it every year — we just expect that we’re going to get it,” Martin said. “So I want to take a moment to really thank (Finance Director) Denise (Town) and Greg (McDanel) and all the staff for the time that they put into not only putting the book together, but making sure that it’s something that anyone off the street could pick up and potentially comprehend.”

Other News

  • The council approved a $18,910 contract with Indigo Design, Inc., for downtown wayfinding signage.
  • McDanel said that Maryville has been selected as one of two test sites in the state for new implementation of the Missouri Uniform Law Enforcement System (MULES), a statewide database of crime and incident data. McDanel credited Maryville Public Safety for the Missouri State Highway Patrol selecting Maryville as such a site.

  • Frederick Scott and Kathy Rice were re-appointed to three-year terms on the Maryville Public Art Advisory Committee.
  • McDanel received a 2.5 percent merit pay raise in January, according to closed session minutes approved Monday. The raise was passed in a 4 to 1 vote with Mayor Martin dissenting.

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