The Tucson agenda
Oro Valley considers few tools available to regulate Airbnb set
Plus more in local gov't meetings this week
Property owners in Oro Valley pocketing extra cash by renting to short-term customers and vacationers may face new – but limited – restrictions.
The OV Town Council will hold a public hearing during its regular meeting Wednesday on a new ordinance regulating short-term rentals. Well, let's not get nuts. The ordinance will avail the town of all the powers allowed by Arizona law.
In September, council members asked staff what the town could do to protect neighborhoods from more insidious short-term rental activity.
The Arizona Legislature has put in place a pretty blanket restriction against local governments hampering homeowners from turning properties into little hotels. However, town lawyers may have found some limited ways to regulate the practice.
The new rules would use the town's authority granted in other state laws. For instance, Arizona Revised Statutes give the town the power to require business licenses, prohibit renting to registered sex offenders and require neighbors be notified that the property adjacent to them will be a short-term rental.
The Legislature passed protections for short-term rentals in 2016. At that time, lawmakers really didn't have to worry about their party losing control of the state House or Senate. Democrats haven't controlled the Legislature since 1966.
So when lobbyists for Airbnb squealed about local infringements on property rights, lawmakers didn't have to come up with any semblance of compromise protecting homeowners and neighborhoods. They just got radical.
Then lawmakers began to allow limited restrictions like requiring business licenses, banning commercial uses (although renting a home is a commercial enterprise) and creating a three-strikes rule.
It's pretty weak sauce. What should be required is a conditional use permit. If my home is in an area zoned residential, I should have to get special permission to operate a business that depends on a stream of customers coming through my home.
So should short-term rental owners. This would allow the activity but at the discretion of local elected leaders. They'd have to be on best behavior.
Airbnb – for instance – allows homeowners to turn properties into businesses in areas zoned as residential. To me that's a non-conforming use, but state zoning law allows for renting out property for lodging.
A renter moving their stuff into home for six months or a year has some stake in the condition of the neighborhood. A dude tossing a backpack on a couch and calling dial-a-keg has none.
Upzonings like this typically require local government approval. Super-majorities are required now if 20 percent of adjacent property owners object to a rezoning related to every other industry.
Apartment complexes require special zoning and they are not allowed in straight-up residential neighborhoods.
The rental lobby got themselves a special carve-out.
Renting to tenants on a long-term lease at least creates long-term neighbors. Renting daily or weekly, can invite drive-thru customers who face few consequences for trashing the property — doing to another neighborhood what they wouldn't do to their own.
Of course there are property rights concerns with this practice. A homeowner has always been able to turn their properties into long-term rentals. The trick is balance – not tilting the scales to favor the more affluent lobbyists.
This is exactly the kind of local issue that could flip 5 points in a legislative race. With one-seat advantages in both the state House and Senate, GOP lawmakers may want to be careful with what could be an under-the-radar issue with suburbanites.
Neighborhoods tend to fiercely protect their quality of life. There's also evidence these short-term rentals take properties out of the rental stock, surging rents and creating homelessness. Places like Scottsdale and Paradise Valley have been clamoring for new powers to restrict short-term rentals. Sedona is paying homeowners $10,000 to delist properties.
All it takes is two 53-47 legislative districts sliding back to 50.1 to 49.9 and Democrats are running things in Phoenix.
OV's council will also take up new budget policies, which could be innocuous, insane, corrupt or catastrophic. So I dug into it for a sec.
Looks like it's just basic accounting and investment standards that lean toward a more conservative approach to money management. For instance, the year-end fund balance target would be increased to 30 percent. That seems a bit high but whatever.
The council want to make sure they have enough money to cover the cost of new debt.
These policies are not charter changes. Any council can rework them as needed.
The council will also study how to clarify how parliamentary rules are used for town business. I will spare you the details, 'cuz if you think accounting is boring ...
In other business ...
I'm resisting the urge to write "actualize" as a verb.
Strategic plans tend to be very simple, albeit costly, documents that lay out "this is how we do government without wrecking the joint."
I used to like covering these retreats. They're a chance for government to ask itself "are our policies achieving our goals." Some crazy ideas can get thrown around and dismissed but it's also an opportunity for the council to direct policy in new ways.
The money will come from the state's Department of Emergency and Military Affairs. The total cost will be $650,000.
The South Tucson City Council will vote to appoint a new city attorney and approve their contract, neither of which was provided in the public agenda materials.
Blake Morlock is an award-winning columnist, who worked in daily journalism for nearly 25 years and is the former communications director for the Pima County Democratic Party.