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Tightened zoning regulation for bed and breakfast establishments has been a topic at City Council ever since Col. Jennifer Pritzker’s project at 300 Church St., now under construction, came before Council in the fall of 2011. Every effort to change the current law, which allows bed and breakfasts as a special use, has failed.
The losing streak continued at the Jan. 13 City Council meeting, as Council voted 7-2 to reject an amendment that would have created two types of B&Bs (two bedrooms or fewer and three-to- five bedrooms), added an ownership requirement (someone with at least a 33 percent interest must reside there), and set a distance limit between larger B&Bs (at least 1,500 feet). Aldermen Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, and Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, were the only aldermen voting in favor of the amendment.
Ald. Fiske said that based on the comments she received at her ward meeting, “these commercial uses [B&Bs] are disruptive in some people’s mind.”
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said that because the two currently approved B&Bs, 300 Church and another Pritzker project just two houses down at 1622 Forest Place, have not opened yet it is not possible to gauge community impact yet.
Speaking at the Planning and Development committee meeting, Aldermen Don Wilson, 4th Ward, Jane Grover, 7th Ward, and Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, each said that, because a B&B requires a special use permit, there should be no need to add additional restrictions to the zoning ordinance.
“I guess in my mind, I think this is a case by case basis,” said Ald. Wilson. The special use application process submits each application to “a degree of scrutiny” that makes regulation such as a distance requirement unnecessary, he said.
Ald. Tendam said, “I can’t conceive of any way of dealing with this except through special use.”
Ald. Grover said that recent amendments to the City Code concerning vacation rental troubled her. “Short-term rental, which does not require a special use,” might be difficult to distinguish between a Type I B&B, she said. Short-term rental requires only a registration with the City, and approval by City Council, rather than the rigorous special use application process.
Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, said that she had watched the Plan Commission debate the issue, and, “I heard a lot of wavering. I don’t think we should [amend the ordinance] yet.”
The last proposed B&B amendment failed in August, 2012. It is now back to the drawing board one more time for those seeking to add to the regulation of B&Bs in Evanston.