Four months after Bozeman city commissioners passed a temporary measure banning new permits for vacation rentals in some neighborhoods, the city is ramping up its work on long-term regulations with listening sessions and an online survey.
Three community forums on Airbnb-style rentals, which the city calls “short-term rentals,” are set for evenings in January, Assistant City Manager Chuck Winn told commissioners this week. The city has also launched an online survey at bozeman.net/STR.
Back in August, the commission voted to stop issuing conditional use permits for vacation rental operations in lower-density residential zoning districts, including the R-1 and R-2 designations in place over most of the historic neighborhoods south of downtown.
That measure, an interim zoning ordinance, came after some residents urged action, concerned that having increasing numbers of homes operated as rentals in their neighborhoods could erode community character and create nuisances like traffic and late-night noise.
Technically, short-term rentals inside city limits require a city business permit and, within some neighborhoods, the separate conditional use permits that are frozen by the interim ordinance. The number of listings on sites like Airbnb and HomeAway, however, indicate that numerous Bozeman homes are rented on a short-term basis, flying under the regulatory radar.
The August measure was initially set to last six months, giving time to research the issue and bring ideas for potential regulations before the commission. Winn, though, said city staff plan to seek an extension, allowing them more time to research approaches taken by other cities and to get feedback from the public.
The process was slowed by the departure of former city planning director Wendy Thomas in July, he said. The city brought its new planning director, Marty Matsen, on board in late October.
The extension request will probably head before commissioners before the interim ordinance expires Feb. 8, Winn said, adding he expects that the body will have a lengthier policy conversation at some point this spring.