The Planning Commission recommended approval and will return the short-term rental ordinance to the Urban County Council (which drafted it) on June 5. There are now over 1,000 short-term rental properties in Lexington and not enough houses for people who live here. Several of the Planning Commission changes to the document are notable:
1. Council had recommended that short-term rentals (STRs) have a maximum occupancy of 12. Planning staff recommended a reduction to 8, and the Planning Commission overruled the staff recommendation at the urging of Council Members. The Planning Commission overruled the staff recommendation and moved occupancy back to 12.
2. The Council version had recommended that the Board of Adjustment look at STRs within 1,000 feet in making decisions about a new STR. The Planning Commission changed it to looking in the “proximity.”
3. The staff and Commission added two important paragraphs to the Ordinance on what happens to existing short-term rentals. Citing Section 4-7 of Lexington’s zoning ordinance, the Commission found that an existing STR is a “principal permitted use” under current regulations and would automatically convert from being a nonconforming use to a conforming conditional use upon passage of the new ordinance.
Fayette County Neighborhood Council (FCNC) has made the following recommendations to the Council on the newly revised Ordinance:
1. Allow new hosted short-term rental properties with an occupancy of 4 or less to receive a license without a Board of Adjustment hearing.
2. Reduce the calculation of “capacity” of STRs from 2 per bedroom plus 4 on the floor to 2 per bedroom in dwellings with 4 or fewer bedrooms. The draft ordinance as written is designed to accommodate mega STRs rather than neighborhood STRs.
3. Require that conditional use STRs be a minimum of 600 feet apart, boundary to boundary, copying Louisville’s short-term rental standard. This would be simple and easily enforced. Having the BOA look at other STRs in the vicinity–a very fuzzy standard–is going to be a problem for neighborhoods and will help real estate investors with legal counsel.
4. Sunset conditional use permits when an STR is sold or transferred, so it can more readily return to residential use.
5. Change BOA and Division of Revenue consideration of nuisance citations in the vicinity to also include “recorded or attested citizen complaints.” Citations are rare in Lexington.
6. FCNC has asked questions about the legality of the new part of the ordinance dealing with Section 4-7 of Lexington’s zoning ordinance and nonconforming uses but has yet to receive an answer.
The Council potentially could consider the STR ordinance in a work session scheduled on June 13 where it will not take public comment. You may reach council members with your thoughts on the ordinance by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. A committee of the Louisville Metro Council recently recommended that Louisville stop accepting new License applications for STRs for 6 months because of numerous complaints from neighborhoods. Covington has had similar problems.
Please advise Council of your thoughts now.
Walt Gaffield, President
Fayette County Neighborhood Council, Inc.