Janesville57.5°

Officials ponder short-term rental rules

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Pedro Oliveira Jr.
May 11, 2010
— Are short-term tenants party animals who come in, trash lake-area homes and leave a few days later?

Or are they nice folks who stimulate the local economy by staying in resident-owned homes and spending money on local businesses, without burdening local school districts with more students?


Those are some of the questions communities in Walworth County are trying to answer as county officials consider whether to allow and regulate short-term rentals in lake communities.


“Opinions have been mixed,” said Michael Cotter, director of the county’s land use and resource management department. “Some municipalities are in favor of it; some are opposed.”


County zoning officials have asked communities to provide official opinions on whether they would like to have short-term rentals. Under current zoning, only rentals of 30 days or more are allowed, Cotter said.


A proposal would affect only unincorporated parts of the county, Cotter said. Cities and villages have their own zoning regulations.


On Monday, Delavan Township residents told their officials what they thought about the issue.


“I think it’s a big infringement, and it opens a whole can of worms,” said Tom Miller, a Delavan Township resident. “It already goes on. And if you legalize it, more people are going to get in the rental market.”


Residents in townships across the county have echoed Miller’s sentiments. Some folks already rent short term, even though the practice is illegal. Hank Schmelz has seen it firsthand.


“There are some of my neighbors who do this now,” said Schmelz of Delavan Township. “I have drunken bachelor parties at one of the homes, fireworks in others all summer long. I think if we legalize this, it’s going to be more rampant. I can’t enjoy my home in the summer.”


Part of the problem, Schmelz said, is lack of information .


“One of the people I talked to didn’t even know it wasn’t allowed,” Schmelz said. “A lot of them don’t know you can’t do that.”


Cass Kordecki of Geneva Township strongly favors amending the zoning code. The homeowner realized she couldn’t rent her properties for less than a month when she first had a few business colleagues stay for vacations that sometimes lasted up to two weeks.


A local official asked her to stop renting. She then started doing research on the subject and started petitioning for short-term rents. The key, she said, is knowing how to rent.


“These people who are transients are not bad people,” Kordecki said. “You have to be responsible and not rent to prom parties or bachelorette parties. These people sometimes leave the homes cleaner than they found them.”


“I really wish people would wake up to the opportunity.”


Kordecki said short-term rentals are the perfect way to take advantage of homes that go unused for much of the year. Tenants who stay for a few days or weeks at a time spend their money locally but don’t use much from public funds, she said.


“My strong feeling is that these people come, they spend their money, they behave themselves, and they don’t send their kids to school. They don’t tax our systems like another full-time resident,” she added.


Cotter said the zoning agency will discuss the issue at its May 20 meeting, at which time there may be a motion to amend the county’s zoning code. If that happens, a public hearing would be scheduled at the county level.



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