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County considers short-term rentals

IN THEIR OPINION... - "How we saw it in Sharon, we discussed it at a recent meeting, and the feeling was that we want things left as they are. We don't want changes to rental ordinances because we didn't see any advantage to it." — Ed Vander Veen, Town of Sharon chairman - "It wouldn't be consistent with (Williams Bay) ordinances to allow short-term rental like that because ours allows no less than 30 days. Anything less than 30 days, the Village Board pretty much has gone on record not being in favor unless zoned for that like a hotel. Certainly though, when the county passes a law less stringent than our own, we would have to revisit our ordinance. ... I can say that we do receive complaints from neighbors for those people who already rent homes a weekend or so at a time." — Robert Carlson, Williams Bay Administrator - "We weren't necessarily against the ordinance, but we don't really have a lakefront — all we have is Lake Lawn which is condominiums and a hotel, so they wouldn't really be affected by short-term rentals," Fred Walling, city of Delavan Building Inspector. - "Ironically I can rent to a sex offender or a large family of immigrant workers, but I can't rent to an affluent family for seven to 30 days in the summer who will spend money in our community, not send kids to our schools and not cause problems with the neighbors. ... I get help paying my taxes and mortgage and the taxpayers benefit from stream of revenue that can be put to good use in our community." Cass Kordecki, spokesperson for Citizens for Responsible Rentals
May 05, 2010 | 08:39 AM
Relative peace and quiet, longtime homeowners, friendly greetings from close neighbors — the character of a small, residential neighborhood is what some municipal officials fear could be threatened by a proposed county ordinance.

The Walworth County Zoning Agency collecting feedback about a countywide ordinance that would allow short-term rentals of homes for vacationers. The current ordinance allows residences to be rented for no less than 30 days, however, that could change to no less than seven days if the ordinance is approved.

Walworth County Board Chairwoman Nancy Russell said a citizen suggested it to the County Zoning Agency in February and it was discussed at the March committee meeting.

That citizen, Cass Kordecki, Geneva Township, said she's been attempting to have the issue discussed since last year.

She calls herself a spokesperson for a "small group of people who currently rent to affluent families staying for a short time."

"I pulled together a small group of renters (Citizens for Responsible Rentals) who want to make sure there are regulations in place to protect tenants, the quality of life for full-time rentals and allow us to conduct this activity legitimately like many towns have done," Kordecki said. "I have had much trouble getting participation as many are fearful of being exposed."

A letter dated Feb. 25 was sent to municipal leaders asked for input into what town, village and city ordinances currently are and if they would be in favor of the proposed change.

Deputy Corporation Counsel Michael Cotter said he's received five of those letters back — three municipalities were against the change so far and the town of Walworth supports it. Linn did support it, but with conditions.

"Williams Bay doesn't allow short-term rentals in their ordinance and would not support the county ordinance," Cotter said. "The city of Delavan answered no to both questions of do you allow it and would you support it. The town of Sharon does not support it either."

Cotter said the town of Linn also responded after discussing the idea "at length" at a recent Plan Commission meeting.

The commission concluded they would support the change only if the rentals were approved through conditional use permits, reviewed annually and there was an minimum of one-week tenants, he said.

Municipalities have until May 1 to reply to the letter. The Zoning Agency plans to discuss the ordinance at its May 20 meeting.

Cotter said if the Agency decides to draft an ordinance, there will be a public hearing before it would be finalized and adopted.

"The responding, general public seems pretty divided on this," he said. "Some want this and some are very much opposed."

Kordecki said she's received some "critical objections" to her proposal.

"However, I feel it is the right thing to do to prevent unfair competition to lodging businesses, impose regulations that will protect our neighbors' quality of life, hold us to the same standards that the lodging properties have to abide by and generate revenue for our municipalities," she said.

Kordecki said she struggles to pay her mortgage as she rents out three homes in Lake Geneva and Lake Como.

She said renting full-time does not always cover the bills like short-term rentals can.

"There is a shortage of a pool of tenants who can afford to rent my home and I have to turn away families willing to pay as much as $13,000 a week," she said.

Russell said she expects the issue to be discussed at the Walworth County Board in June.

She said the main arguments for the change include people being able to hold onto cottages and homes during a rough economy by renting them out, legalization of short-term renting could bring in income to municipalities and the county by room, sales and other taxes.

Kordecki said some argue that it provides a different market for people who would not rent a hotel room or condominium.

But there are quite a few concerns raised by the public as well as county and municipality officials.

"Counter arguments are that there are a number of people who are in business to rent out and buy properties specifically to rent them out and they

would generate much more money through short-term versus monthly renting," she said. "Another is that residential people don't expect to have what amounts to a business or commercial property in their neighborhood and the people living their permanently may no longer want to live in that area anymore."

Russell said some believe it could create disturbances for permanent residents who get up early to go to work at least five days out of the week.

Also, there is the issue of how the ordinance would be enforced and some officials believe short-term renting is occurring illegally already anyway.

"There's a counter argument that why would anyone believe people who are currently renting illegally would suddenly collect room and sales tax and turn it over to the municipality and what would prevent rentals for periods shorter than a week?" she said.

Russell said the county ordinance would only directly affect unincorporated areas since cities and villages will have their own ordinances. However, there is concern that the change could place pressure on municipalities to change their ordinance as well.

"Something I feel is really important in terms of economic development is that legitimate rental properties, hotels, condos and bed and breakfasts where the owner of manager is on site and are paying room taxes and higher property taxes because they are in zoned for that type of business, may be deprived of customers if short-term renting is allowed," Russell said.

She said she hasn't heard responses from municipal leaders, but she has heard from a number of residents through letters and calls.

"I have not heard one person in favor so far," she said.

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