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Tourism committee recommends reviewing standing regulations to allow for increased tourism

The city of Dundee may look to alter its ordinances on vacation rentals in town, as the City Council recently directed the planning commission to review the process to amend the development code for these rentals.

Dundee City Administrator Rob Daykin said the city's tourism committee recommended the city review its regulations on vacation rentals, noting five areas of focus: parking, volume control, contacting abutters, displaying permits and a three bedroom maximum.

According to the committee, parking was an area to look at to ensure off-street parking was being utilized correctly, and asked if a garage should be counted toward parking. Volume control was listed as more homes are being converted to this purpose rather than full-time housing. A local representative was mentioned as someone who can be responsive to neighbors, the city, public safety and guests when the home is occupied. The permitting was listed so the city can more easily identify if a property is in compliance. And adjusting the three-bedroom maximum was listed to allow for a more diverse variety of housing for tourists.

According to city documents, vacation rentals were first permitted in the city in 2014. Prior to that, the only transient rental activity permitted in residential zones were bed and breakfast rentals. Daykin said the main difference between a bed and breakfast and vacation rental is that at a bed and breakfast the owner or operator must also stay on site.

Daykin said the planning commission will likely hold public workshops before drafting any changes to the regulations, then would make a recommendation to the council. Daykin said this likely wouldn't occur until January, perhaps even later.

"(The City Council) did want the planning commission to readdress those concerns and look for opportunities to modify the regulations to mitigate those concerns," Daykin said.

According to a memo from the traffic commission, the group wanted the council to revisit the vacation rental ordinances to ensure "they are meeting the long term desires of the community along the growing demand for tourism in the area." The committee said it believes short-term rentals have the most immediate potential for growth in Dundee due to the housing stock and demand as a tourism destination.

"It has been witnessed in other growing tourism areas, STR laws can make or break the success of community approval in regards to the growth of this lodging style," the memo reads. "We would suggest that the STR ordinances of Dundee be reviewed to ensure they are best for protecting the future of the community, while still permitting homeowners to utilize their properties as they choose, as it falls in line with the desired development of our town."

Daykin said he knows a few individuals have approached city councilors with some concerns over this since it came to light the tourism committee wanted to review regulations. He said concerns have mostly been from residents with personal interactions with vacation rentals.

One such resident, Elizabeth Sundeen, said she has concerns with how short-term vacation rentals are trending nationwide. She said corporate takeovers, such as large scale hotels like Marriot throwing their hat into the ring with short-term vacation rentals, could have a negative impact on communities.

Sundeen also said these rentals could be negative for younger workers in the surrounding areas who can't afford to get housing, stating unless you're a person with a higher income, it's becoming increasingly difficult to get entry level housing.

She also said she has concerns over permitting for short-term rentals. Right now, she said, a city official can approve a short-term rental and there isn't an avenue for public appeal. She said she'd rather see all short-term vacation rental applications go through the planning commission for conditional uses, which can be repealed following public complaints.

She also listed on-street parking and noise as concerns, as the vision for Dundee is "a small, serene rural community with a real sense of vibrant community."

"A takeover by short-term vacation rentals would destroy that sense of community …," she said. "I'm concerned that they're here to stay."

She added that she was pleased the council decided to send the issue to the planning commission as she wants to see an ordinance that carefully regulates short-term vacation rentals.

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