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Sandy Journal

Sandy city council passes short term rental ordinance

Aug 21, 2018 01:28PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Wendy Davis speaks favorably about short term rentals while making a citizen's comment during the August 21 Sandy city council meeting.

By Justin Adams | [email protected]

Alice Slack is a single woman in her 60s who was recently laid off her job when her company was bought out. She had trouble finding another good job and was starting to burn through her retirement savings.

Brigette Reece, a teacher in Canyons School District and a single mom, needed a little extra income to be able to afford to stay in her home.

Brandon Draper recently retired from the military and needed a place to stay for a few weeks while he searched for his new home.

All three of these Sandy residents told their stories during an August 21 city council meeting in which a new ordinance regulating short term rentals, such as Airbnb, was up for consideration and unanimously passed by the end of the night.

“It’s been a wonderful experience,” said Slack, who started renting out part of her home on Airbnb in order to make the extra bit of money she needed.

A Sandy city ordinance passed in 1998 "prohibited the use of short-term rentals less than 30 days in all residential districts," according to a memo issued by the city's community development department. But in recent years, the state legislature has put pressure on cities to lift such bans.

The result for Sandy city was ordinance 18-23, which legalizes and regulates short term rentals. The ordinance was drafted and redrafted for months as the city received input from the administration, the city council and residents.

“This has been a long process,” said city council analyst Dustin Fratto. “It’s not something we’ve just fallen in to.”

The ordinance requires anyone operating a short term rental unit to first acquire a permit and license from the city. It also sets a cap on the number of permits that will be issued by the city in order to control the proliferation of the rental units.

Critics say that a high volume of short-term rental units can drive housing costs up for residents because households that might otherwise be sold or rented out long-term are instead being turned into STR's that are more profitable for their owners. Owning and operating several short term rental units has become a hugely profitable cottage industry.

One of the residents who spoke during the meeting, Valerie Walker, said that a house next to hers is owned by a rich New Yorker who only stays there for a few weeks of skiing during the winter and rents it out on Airbnb for the rest of the year.

To combat such problems, the ordinance also requires that the short term rental units must be owner-occupied, meaning that person which owns and operates it must also live at the site as their primary residence for at least 183 days out of the year.

Some last-minute amendments were also made prior to the ordinance’s passing. For example, the original legislation limited any rental to a maximum of 10 consecutive days. But after discussion between city council members, the decision was made to increase the limit to 29 days so that people like Brandon Draper can stay in an Airbnb for a few weeks while searching for a home.

The original draft also indicated that there would be no waiting list available for those who don’t initially get the required license and permit because it would place too much of an administrative burden on the city staff. But Mayor Bradburn stepped in and insisted that a waiting list be part of the final ordinance.

“It’s the 21st century, I’m pretty sure we can find a way to make an online waiting list,” he said.

Between all the citizens’ comments, discussion and amendments, it wasn’t until after 10 p.m. that the ordinance was finally passed. The entire proceedings were noteworthy for their complete lack of contention or argumentation. Although many attendees expressed differing viewpoints about the issue, the council chambers were filled with laughter and compromise, rather than raised voices and gridlock.

“I wanted to thank everyone that came out tonight. What a fantastic tone that we had,” said council member Maren Barker before the meeting was adjourned.

If anything exemplified the positive atmosphere of the city’s work that night, it was a citizen’s comment made by Rob Alston, who said that he came to the meeting completely opposed to the idea of having any short term rentals in Sandy. But after listening to the city’s presentation and the testimonials of his many neighbors in the city, he changed his mind. “I now support the legislation as it’s written,” he said.