LAKE BLUFF — After more than a year of debate, studies and hearings that divided the community, Lake Bluff residents who want to rent their residences on a short-term basis may do so.
The Village Board of Trustees narrowly approved an ordinance establishing a two-year pilot program regulating short-term rental of residential real estate April 23 at Village Hall, slightly modifying legislation it initially approved two weeks before.
The ordinance became effective April 24 and expires April 23, 2020, unless the trustees choose to extend it or make it permanent, according to the language of the legislation.
Village President Kathy O’Hara broke a 3-3 tie among the trustees allowing short-term residential rentals in the village with significant restrictions. Joining O’Hara were Trustees Mark Dewart, Eric Grenier and Paul Lemieux. Voting against the proposal were Trustees Barbara Ankenman, William Meyer and Aaron Towle.
Before the board voted on the ordinance, Lemieux suggested homes with driveways separated by five feet or less not be allowed to rent on a short-term basis. He said the initial draft of the legislation only imposed the restriction if it impacted parking.
“This takes the village out of determining if there is an impact on parking,” said Lemieux.
The board included the five-foot driveway separation restriction.
Lemieux also proposed limiting the number of short-term rental permits allowed during the pilot program to 10. After some discussion, Meyer’s suggestion of six was approved. The board has the right to increase the number during the two-year period.
Trustees Give Little Explanation for Their Votes
Though the trustees explained the reasoning behind their votes prior to their initial decision on short-term rentals at the April 9 meeting, only Meyer gave his view this time.
“This is not in the best interest of Lake Bluff to have short-term rentals,” said Meyer. “This is a mistake.”
Before the trustees discussed the ordinance, 20 members of the public gave their views, with two favoring the concept and 18 speaking against. Some, like Debbie Wilbur, feared allowing people to rent their homes to outsiders will alter the community’s character.
“We will survive without them,” said Wilbur. “We don’t need them. Once the door is open with the restrictions in place others will say ‘Why not?’ and Lake Bluff is changed forever.”
Bob Havrin, who rented the second level of his duplex as a short-term rental before the village stopped the practice last May, said the problems opponents of the plan fear are nonexistent.
“We had short-term rentals for two years and there was never a problem,” said Havrin. “If there were no problems two years ago without regulation why would there be any now? It worked.”
Linda Neumann, an opponent of short-term rentals, pushed the board to postpone their vote and schedule a referendum before making a decision.
“Table it and have a vote,” said Newmann. “If it’s 75-25 opposed, then don’t do it. If it goes the other way, do that.”
Residents Raise Referendum Issue
Another opponent who has helped organize the opposition, Julie Astbury Capps, also pushed for a referendum. She questioned the trustees about the concept and got answers from village attorney Peter Friedman.
Friedman said any referendum, whether put on the ballot by the board or through a citizen led petition drive, would be advisory, not binding, under state law. If there were a petition drive, he said they would be handed in to the village, sent to the office of the Lake County Clerk and placed on the ballot.
Lake County Clerk Carla Wyckoff said in an April 10 interview with DailyNorthShore.com petitions for a referendum must be filed with the appropriate office by August 6 to be placed on the November 6 ballot. She estimated 208 signatures would be required. Capps said after the meeting she did not know whether she would try to organize a petition drive.
Under the provisions of the new ordinance, the owner of a home with five or fewer guest rooms may rent it out for a maximum of two days but less than 30. Some of the restrictions include:
- The property must be the owner’s primary residence
- The person must reside there for 275 days but not during the rental period
- STRs are limited to 45 rental days or 15 stays, whichever occurs first
- STRs must be registered with the village
- The annual registration fee is $250
- Short-term rentals will be taxed in accordance with the village’s home rule hotel tax
- Homes with driveways separated by five feet or less are not allowed to rent on a short-term basis
- Six short-term rental permits will be allowed during the pilot program, but the board may increase the number
Click here to read a previous DNS story containing full details of the ordinance before the April 23 modifications.