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1/16/2013 2:38:00 PM
Efforts to Limit Short-Term Rentals Stall Once Again
By Shawn Jones

A proposed ordinance that would have prohibited homeowners from renting their home “or portion thereof” for nights, weekends or any other period shorter than 30 days fell flat before the Planning and Development Committee Monday night, Jan. 14. The Committee rejected the proposal without a vote, opting instead to hold a workshop open to all interested parties in hope that a comprehensive ordinance would result.

The issue, brought to Council’s attention during football season when neighbors complained that a home off of Lincoln Street rented rooms by the night, has been before the Committee at least three times already.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said that, from his perspective, the proposed ordinance did not take into consideration the Committee’s earlier deliberations. “There are a spectrum of circumstances that should be considered. A product [proposed ordinance] should have been delivered that took the spectrum into consideration,” he said. Instead, the proposed ordinance contained only one active provision: “It shall be unlawful to operate a Vacation Rental within the City of Evanston.”

Local attorney Jeff Smith called the blanket ban on all short-term rentals a bad idea. “It’s like going after a bug with a bazooka,” he said. He estimated that perhaps a hundred residences offered short-term rental, and only a couple of those led to “very vocal protests. If the City enacted a blanket ban, it would “take away a property right from an awful lot of people,” he said.

Ald. Wilson encouraged anyone with an interest in the proposed ordinance to submit comments, ideas and suggestions to the Law Department. One suggested exception came from real estate agents, he said, when a number of them informed Committee members of occasions when real estate closings are delayed, or construction takes longer than expected, forcing homeowners to stay out of a newly purchased home for several weeks. Such a short-term rental would be illegal under the proposed new law. [Comments should be sent to]

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, returned to a favored theme of hers, saying, “I think we should go back to the whole licensing thing.” Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, agreed, saying, “Licensing is just so helpful for so many reasons.” It is unclear, however, how licensing of short-term rentals would or could be enforced by the City.

Eventually, the Committee settled upon a Saturday morning workshop at which stakeholders can bring ideas and thoughts on the topic to be crafted into a workable ordinance. An announcement from the City can be expected soon with a time, date and location for the short-term rental ordinance workshop. For now, however, the status quo remains.

Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Article comment by: Mark Rosati

Allowing houses in residential neighborhoods to be turned into transient hotels affects community safety, security, property values and quality of life.

Lawyers have told me that existing ordinances in Evanston prohibit this kind of activity in areas zoned R-1, and also ban overnight commercial activity in a residence. Yet private homes are being rented out for overnight stays, football weekends, etc. The concept of a stable residential block or neighborhood is lost.

If someone were to buy a house in a residential neighborhood in Evanston and start a car-washing business in the alley, presumably the city would step in and prohibit this. Yet it is allowing transient hotels to proliferate, in at least one case in very close proximity to elementary and middle schools.

Every homeowner in Evanston needs to understand that this is a growing problem, and it could happen on their block - indeed, next door to them - tomorrow. All it takes is a home foreclosure and a buyer swooping in with intent to turn what had been a single-family or two-family residence into a rooming house.

The city needs to take action, and quickly.

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