Perryville proceeds with more restrictive plan for Airbnbs

Published 6:38 pm Friday, November 8, 2019

The Perryville City Council is having a discussion that is happening all over the United States — where to allow short-term rental properties such as Airbnbs and bed and breakfasts, and how to regulate them.

“This is a national debate,” said Planning and Zoning Director Steve Hunter during the council’s regular meeting Thursday night. “It’s clearly a commercial endeavor. … Do we start to allow single family homes to run a certain kind of business out of the home, which is counter-intuitive of a single family home neighborhood?”

The issue of where short term rental properties will be allowed in Perryville was debated after Hunter presented the council with P&Z’s ordinance draft amendments that the council had previously talked about in a work session.

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There were two options for the council to consider:

  1. A) Within the incorporated area of the city of Perryville, a property owner who wants to open an Airbnb or B&B would have to apply for and obtain a conditional use permit in neighborhoods zoned as rural residential (RR), single family residential (RS-1) and two family residential (RM-2) neighborhoods. In any area zoned agriculture (AG) within the city limits, rentals would be allowed without having to get a permit.
  2. B) Short-term rental properties would not be allowed in RR or RS-1 zoning districts. A conditional use permit would be required for the AG and RM-2 zoning districts.

Both options allow short-term rental properties to be located within the city’s downtown commercial district.

Council members Trent Bottom and Chad Blackwell said they were in favor of option A.

Bottom said he believed residential neighborhoods would be somewhat protected from having disruptive renters if the process of getting a conditional use permit, where strict guidelines were enforced, would “weed out people who weren’t really serious to be approved.” 

Blackwell said he was in favor of permits and regulations to control short-term rentals in neighborhoods. Because Perryville’s only industry is tourism, and tourists need more places to stay, allowing Airbnbs in neighborhoods would be economically beneficial to the town.

Council member Carlos Miller disagreed. He wants to keep short-term rental properties out of single family neighborhoods.

“I like knowing who my neighbors are,” Miller said.

He doesn’t want to see strangers coming and going all the time, because he chose to live in a neighborhood where he knows his neighbors.

Council members Adam and Kelly Gray were also in favor of option B. Adam Gray said he wanted to keep short-term rentals limited to the commercial district, and only allow them on conditional-use permit basis in AG and RM-2. Adam Gray said he wanted to keep short-term rentals limited to the commercial district “and not reach out into the community.”

Kelly Gray was reluctant to voice her opinion because she and her husband, Adam, own a short-term rental property in the downtown district. She said she didn’t want her opinion to be a conflict of interest.

Hunter said since the council wasn’t voting on the amendment, but was just deciding which option they wanted to vote on later, it was fine for her to voice her opinion.

“This is exactly the debate that’s going on. Everyone is trying to figure this out. Allow for tourism, give people an opportunity to create some income off of their home. And others think, ‘Hey, commercial business is commercial business and it should be in a commercial zone,’” Hunter said. “That’s what’s so tricky about it.”

Because the consensus was two for option A and three for option B (Council member Susan Parks was absent), Mayor Brian Caldwell told City Attorney Justin Johnson to write the ordinance amendment that includes option B. The council will need to have two readings and approve the amendment by Nov. 26.

In other city business:

  • Perryville Police Chief Parker Hatter announced that the department had just received a grant to receive a dog trained to sniff out and locate drugs. Part-time Officer Larry Nunes had applied for the grant, which includes a trained, non-aggressive rescue dog, food, vet bills, and two weeks of training for Nunes in Texas with the dog. There is also a possibility that a vehicle will be donated too, Hatter said. “It’s a game when you can catch them (people with drugs.)” Having the dog will help, he said.
  • The Perryville Lions Club presented Fire Chief Tony Young with a check for $1,400 to purchase a new meter that checks for gases at fire scenes. Young said the monitor had recently broke and parts were not available any more to fix it. “It’s an excellent time for us to get that. We really, really appreciate it. … It’s a huge benefit for us.”
  • The council once again discussed the possibility of selling the historic Merchants Row buildings before they become in such disrepair that it won’t be possible to find a buyer. They also talked about if easements could be taken off the deeds. Johnson was asked to look into the process of selling the buildings.