Council swears in new member, debates short-term rental issues

The Washington City Council: L-R, Councilman Jeff Turek, Mayor Ken Neilson, Councilmen Garth Nisson and Troy Belliston, Councilwoman Kolene Granger and Councilman Kurt Ivie, Washington, Utah, Feb. 22, 2017 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

WASHINGTON CITY – Washington Elementary teacher Kurt Ivie officially joined the Washington City Council Wednesday night as he was sworn into office by the man he replaced.

L-R: Judge Thad Seegmiller swears interim council appointee Kurt Ivie into office. Ivie assumes the council seat left by Seegmiller following his appointment as the city’s new justice court judge, Washington, Utah, Feb. 22, 2017 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Judge Thad Seegmiller, who resigned his position on the city council last month, conducted the swearing in. Seegmiller was appointed to be the city’s new justice court judge in December.

Read more: Council’s interim appointee says his ‘heart is in Washington’

Ivie was one of five men who applied to fill the vacancy left by Seegmiller and was interviewed by the City Council during its Feb. 8 meeting. He was ultimately chosen as the interim appointee and plans to run for election to the seat this fall.

Once the ceremony was over, a lengthy discussion was had concerning how the city may address increasing numbers of short-term rentals and requests for such moving forward.

A short-term rental is generally a home, or part of a home such as a room or basement, that the property owner is renting out to a guest in a hotel-like manner. This tends to be done through websites like Airbnb and Vrbo.

Property owners who engage in short-term rentals can run afoul of their neighbors and city ordinances depending on the circumstances.

While the city unanimously approved two new developments in the area of the Washington Parkway just off the east side of Interstate 15’s Exit 13, it triggered questions regarding regulation and enforcement of short-term rentals in general.

Councilwoman Kolene Granger suggested the City Council consider implementing a moratorium on approving new short-term rental overlays for the time being so the council has a chance to consider its options regarding the matter. The proposed moratorium is slated to be discussed in the council’s next meeting in two weeks.

The question of short-term rentals is a heated topic for residents and city officials, and is also the subject of a proposed bill in the Utah Legislature. The bill would prohibit cities from banning short-term rentals in the case of owner-occupied situations while leaving issues of enforcement to the cities to figure out.

Elected officials in Washington City and St. George have spoken against the bill primarily on the principle that local issues should be decided at the local level and not at the state level, which they say will implement a one-size-fits-all solution.

Councilman Garth Nisson listens to the debate on how Washington City can better address regulating short-term rentals, Washington, Utah, Feb. 22, 2017 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Read more: Bill to allow homeowners short-term rentals advances

While there is an argument against allowing short-term rentals in already established residential neighborhoods, Councilman Garth Nisson said, the issue boils down to property rights.

“We’re getting into the area of fundamental property rights,” Nisson said. “Sometimes I think we do go overboard in what we demand.”

Drew Ellerman, the city’s community development director, estimated that there are currently between 200 and 500 illegal short-term rentals active in Washington City. These nightly rentals currently operate without a city-issued business license and may not be paying associated taxes.

A public hearing was also held for the pending adoption of the city’s new wastewater capital facilities plan. A part of the plan includes adjustment of the city’s impact fee rate – which is currently $1,159. If approved at the next City Council meeting in two weeks, the current rate will drop to around $981.

No one got up to speak for or against the adoption of the capital facilities plan.

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  • utahdiablo February 23, 2017 at 9:49 pm

    Many home owners here in Washington / St George area are 2nd home owners who want the extra income without having to rent their home for at least 30 days, but who does this affect? The Full time home owners who have to put up with some one day, weekend, full week strangers living next door or behind us who don;t give a damn about who they bother as to noise. If I wanted to live next to a hotel I would have moved next to a hotel. This is total BS and the Police and Sheriff departments better get ready to get real busy with noise complaints……The new State Motto should be Anything for a Buck….Damn greed will ruin this once great State

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