Peoria city council revisits short-term rentals discussion, talks redistricting

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – Two weeks after rejecting two Airbnb rental proposals in the city’s Uplands neighborhood, the Peoria City Council is bringing the topic back to the table.

During Tuesday night’s city council meeting, council members voted 10-1 to reconsider the 1030 N. Elwood Avenue and 1514 W. Columbia Terrace proposals. Beth Jensen, At-Large Councilwoman, voted against both motions for reconsideration saying she believes they already made the right decision.

Zach Oyler, At-Large councilmember, said after some discussion, a few councilmembers believed they owed it to the petitioners to re-evaluate their specific properties as a whole.

“All of the discussion at the last meeting surrounded opposition to the concept as a whole, it wasn’t about the properties in question and that’s what the discussion was supposed to be about,” Oyler said.

Tim Riggenbach, Third District Councilman, acknowledged bringing motions back for reconsideration is not something the council does often.

“It shows some wisdom and some willingness of the council to hear concerns throughout the community as well as among our colleagues,” Riggenbach said.

Riggenbach said in addition to reconsidering the proposals, there are three specific concerns he and Chuck Grayeb, Second District Councilman, would like Joe Dulin, Peoria’s Assistant Director of Community Development, to explore and bring to the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission.

He said they want the special use of a short-term rental attached to the property owner, they’d like a concrete cap on how many unrelated adults can stay in an Airbnb, and they’d like a cap on the number of short-term rentals in a neighborhood.

Jensen said she supports more limitations and looks forward to some thoughtful proposals from the city staff.

She said the bulk of the city’s operating short-term rentals are in the older heritage neighborhoods and she wanted to clarify that just because they have regulations of short-term rentals doesn’t mean they’re against them.

“We’re not against them but we want to make sure that they’re regulated in a way that do not destroy our older neighborhoods,” Jensen said.

The council eventually voted, 10-1 and 9-1 respectively, to defer the actual approval of the two proposals until the Oct. 12th meeting. Oyler voted no both times and Denise Jackson’s, First District Councilwoman, phone call was disconnected during the second vote.

Oyler said he voted no because he believes the council owes it to those petitioners to give them an answer instead of continuing to kick the idea around.

“We’ve got many operators out there running AirBnbs with no special use permit, no application put in, and essentially we’ve, last meeting, punished those who attempted to do the right thing,” Oyler said.

He said he’s concerned all of the back and forth action will discourage people from wanting to pursue AirBnbs in the city.

“I’ve had potential property buyers, as well as real estate agents, reach out to me after the last meeting and say ‘hey, I have clients that are looking at canceling contracts because they don’t have confidence they’re going to be able to use the property for the intended purpose,” Oyler said.

Riggenbach said they want to have protocols to avoid having people feel this way.

“We want to have some guidelines in place so that people know these are the rules and if you follow these rules you’ll get approved,” Riggenbach said.

Andre Allen, Fourth District Councilman, and Kiran Velpula, At-Large Councilman, both mentioned it would be best for the council to set expectations for short-term rentals and make the idea clear otherwise they’ll find themselves continuously having the same conversation over and over again.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the council saw a presentation on the 2020 Census data for the city. City leaders said Peoria’s population decreased slightly, reporting 113,250 residents.

Councilmembers praised the census turnout but acknowledged the numbers may be slightly skewed. They cited concerns about thousands of Bradley University students potentially not being counted in the area due to COVID-19.

Patrick Urich, city manager, said, per mandate, council members would soon have to redraw the council district boundaries. He said the city endured population loss in the south and growth in the north.

Urich said every district has to roughly be the same size.

He said District 1 needs to expand by 3,938 people, District 2 needs to expand by 1,555 people, District 3 needs to expand by 1,113 people, District 4 needs to shrink by 1,329 people, and District 5 needs to shrink by 5,568 people.

Mayor Rita Ali also discussed creating an ad-hoc committee consisting of herself and the five district council members to redraw the district boundaries. But some of the council suggested waiting to possibly look into other changes,

“We also want to look to see, do we still want five At-Large and five District councilmembers or maybe we want eight Districts and two At-Large, or seven and three or ten Districts,” Riggenbach said. “So that’s a discussion that we need to have and obviously get some input from the public.”

The council agreed to discuss this topic more at its next meeting on Oct. 12.

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