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City Council Creating Committee To Study Short Term Rentals In Heber

Heber City

Heber City Council met Tuesday evening. Council discussion revolved around short-term rentals and tiny homes.

The council received a presentation from Heber business owner Heather Peet. Peet is asking the city to consider amending codes to allow for Tiny Homes on Wheels in Heber.

“People thought success equaled a large home,” Peet continued “Today I think people are shifting more to health and happiness as being that sign of success. Also, diverse community equals a healthy community and we need diverse housing options to meet diverse needs. So, let's bring the codes up to date.”

Peet answered questions from the council following her presentation. Council member Ron Crittenden said he supports allowing smaller size homes but asked why not build these small homes on foundations.

“Look at the person who wants to live in a tiny home,” Peet explained. “It's not that they want to be mobile all the time, but if they get a job that would make them move, they don't have to sell anything. They can take their house and move. Now, the other side, which you're talking about with being permanent on a foundation. If we're dealing with ADU’s, if I were to go to my friend's house, I would be benefiting the homeowner’s property but then I would get nothing from it.”

Heber city staff will study the issue and bring it back to council in a future meeting.

City Council also discussed regulations on short-term rentals like Airbnb and VRBO. City planner Jamie Baron said the ordinance was a result of concerns raised.

“Again, some of those concerns are absentee owners, parking, number of visitors, licensing, taxation, property management, noise, and trespassing, and then preservation of long-term rental properties and affordable housing,” Baron said. “So, these are all some of the concerns that were brought up.”

The proposed ordinance requires property owners to obtain a short-term rental business license and pay transient room tax among other regulations. Rentals are split into two categories.

“Owner occupied short-term rentals,” Baron continued. “So, that person owns their own house. They live there for six months out of the year, majority, to have that primary exemption status with the County. They can rent their house, or they can rent their room, as long as they follow the provisions that are outlined. Then we have the vacation rental which is the second home or income property. We’re proposing that they’re only in the C3 commercial, which is our core historic commercial, or in the vacation rental overlay. Then they must have a property manager within 10 miles. They must have their garage open, the whole unit, things like that those people who are renting that.”

The Vacation Rental Overlay is a 20-block radius in Heber’s Downtown.  One Airbnb owner spoke to the fact that the ordinance will be difficult to enforce as recently passed Utah state law prohibits cities from using listing websites to find uncompliant property owners.

“I just wanted to make it clear that I could continue as an unlicensed landlord,” the short-term renter explained. “As long as I don't receive any complaints from my neighbors, they all know I'm an online renter. Every nuisance law I meet, my garbage is where it's supposed to be, they can park on my property, they don't park on city property—and I can go unlicensed. There's nothing anybody can do, especially if you find me online.”

The council voted to create an ad hoc committee made up of those who complained against vacation rentals in their neighborhoods and short-term renters. The committee will work together on the ordinance for 30 more days before returning to the council.

KPCW reporter David Boyle covers all things in the Heber Valley as well as sports and breaking news.