Effingham eyes approval short-term rentals in designated zones

During a Plan Commission meeting Tuesday, City Planner Greg Koester reviews the text amendment that would allow short-term leases of homes and properties in designated zoning areas in Effingham. The proposal was recommended to the Effingham City Council, which will review it Feb. 18.

EFFINGHAM — Effingham City Council will be reviewing the request for short-term rentals in certain zoning districts after the Effingham Plan Commission recommended this week they be allowed.

The commission approved rentals of a period less than 30 days in properties zoned general commercial, central business district, or light industrial district only. However, unlike short-term rentals such as Airbnbs, residential zones are excluded.

The commission reviewed a detailed proposed text amendment that allows for a special-use permit for vacation rental or short-term rental properties, which does not include hotels, motels, boarding home, lodging home or a bed and breakfast.

The text states the rental property values will not be substantially impaired and that the rental will not impede the normal and orderly development of surrounding properties.

“We’ve had a couple inquiries about this and because it wasn’t in the zoning ordinance, it wasn’t allowed,” said City Planner and Subdivision Coordinator Greg Koester. “We have reviewed other villages’ and municipalities’ short-term rentals and discussed it among city staff ... and this is what we’ve come up with at this current time.”

Koester said the text amendment is a starting point.

“We feel this is a good start to try this out,” he said.

The property owner must request a special-use permit and follow all of the guidelines.

Koester said it is important to understand that the definition of short-term rental means less than 30 days and the owner of the property must submit a conceptual plan and a non-refundable fee of $100 to be submitted as part of the petition for special use.

The plan must show a floor plan of the property, the address, location map, maximum number of guests allowed, an authorized manager’s name and phone number. Parking must also be shown with a minimum of two, designated off-street parking spaces with signage.

“We are restricting this to four special-use permits per owner,” said Koester. “The owner or manager must also be available 24/7 and the owner must keep a register of the guests in each rental for the purposes of the city police and city fire and building official, which is mainly should there be a fire call, we will know how many guests are registered in that particular building.”

Among the detailed rules and regulations the property is subject to an initial inspection prior to operation and annually.

Koester said the task before the Plan Commission came up after one property owner contacted Effingham Building Official Michelle Wilkins about converting a property at 101 W. Evergreen for the purpose of short-term rentals.

The ranch-style house is zoned M-1, light industrial with a special-use permit, and had served most recently as a dog grooming establishment, but owner Kristen Allen intends to convert the structure to residential use for short-term rental.

She said it had all the public safety features needed such as an ADA ramp, exit signs, fire extinguishers and is not located in a neighborhood. Allen said she has a lake property that she has also used as short-term rental.

“It would be a good use for the property for the time being,” said Allen. “The concept isn’t necessarily new to myself and the things written in the text amendment is easily conducive for this short-term lease.”

Allen said she would expect guests to be couples or families driving through, or professionals working in the area who would prefer to stay in something homey – instead of a hotel room for two weeks at a time.

Other examples of potential guests would be families coming for visits in the area, but finding that a relative’s home might not be large enough and more space is needed to accommodate. Stays could be as short as overnight or a weekend.

In other unrelated matters, the commission also approved recommending rezoning property zoned medical-use facility-only status to neighborhood shopping district.

Cheryl L. Shuler, who owns the property at 301 West Virginia, Effingham, stated in a letter that there is a reduced demand for individual offices, noting the area surrounding has facilities with a variety of uses. She claims the change will help her get a renter, which is something she’s tried for 18 months to get, with the current zoning.

The commission also approved recommending rezoning property at 2010 N. Steger Drive, owned by Julie and Nick Clark, from nonurban to single-family resident for the purpose of building a home.

Dawn Schabbing can be reached at dawn.schabbing@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151, ext 138.


Dawn Schabbing is a senior reporter at the Effingham Daily News, covering Effingham City Hall, Unit 40, and special projects. A graduate of Lake Land College and Eastern Illinois University with degrees in journalism, she lives in Neoga.

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