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BoA wrangles over short-term rentals in North University

Thursday, February 13, 2014 by Elizabeth Pagano

Undeterred by a lack of neighborhood concern, the Board of Adjustment continued its fight against short-term rentals in the North University Neighborhood Monday night.


Though the board approved a variance at 204 West 33rd St., they attached a condition that the house would not be used as a Type II Short-Term Rental. The variance will allow owner Tere Coats to remodel the interior of her 350-square-foot back house, and change the use from accessory to residential.


Initially, the board was pressing to ban rentals of the unit entirely, despite earlier testimony from neighbor Mary Ingle that the North University Neighborhood encouraged garage apartments.


Saying he wanted to be sensitive to the issue of neighborhood character, Board Member Fred McGhee asked whether Coats would accept a limitation on turning the unit into a rental.


Coats explained that she had no immediate plans for renting the unit, which she plans to live in during renovations of the main house. Following that, Coats plans to use the garden house as a guest house.


Coats did, however, resist pressure from the board to agree to a ban on rentals entirely, saying that she didn’t want to do anything that would go against her best interests or depreciate her property value.


“Your interest is within the context of the larger community, and neighborhood interest,” said McGhee.


Chair Jeff Jack explained that using the back house as a rental could cause parking problems despite the three spots that Coats will have on her land. He speculated that she could “get a dozen in” the 350-square-foot house during South by Southwest. Jack later modified that estimate to 10.


“I think character of the neighborhood is defined by many things, part of which is the character of your tenants, and the problem that we have with short-term rentals is that sometimes some of the tenants are not as gracious as long-term renters,” said Jack.


Not all Board members agreed.


“I don’t think being a tenant, or renting a property should be viewed negatively,” said Alternate Board Member Will Schnier. “The way that the cost-of-living is going in this city, having a rental room or property on your premises may be the only way for people to afford living in this city. I am very resistant to restricting her ability to generate income from an existing building that fits in the neighborhood character.”


Following a discussion about whether to disallow rentals entirely, Ingle addressed the board again, to reiterate neighborhood support for garage apartments.


“Our neighborhood supports the development of garage apartments,” said Ingle. “We prefer that kind of infill, because that’s been traditionally what we’ve had in our neighborhood from the beginning of time… That’s part of the fabric of our neighborhood.”


Neighbors did express concerns about parking, but their fears were abated after seeing new plans drawn up by the owner that were in compliance with the neighborhood plan.


Though originally built as a garage in the 1930s, the building was remodeled in 1999 for use as a “model train facility.” The variance will allow Coats to install plumbing and a kitchen, but no changes will be made to the exterior of the house.


In the end, the board approved the variance in a vote of 7-0. Board Member Sallie Burchett was absent.

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