Vernon Hills moves toward Airbnb ban

Vernon Hills is close to approving a ban on short-term vacation rentals often arranged through sites like Airbnb.

Mayor Roger Byrne called for research on the topic earlier in July when officials noticed Vernon Hills homes listed on the sites. Village trustees on July 19 voted unanimously to prohibit the activity after reviewing uncertainties surrounding the new trend.

Trustees Barbara Williams and Cindy Hebda were absent from the meeting.

"If we deem to allow the Airbnb-kind of operation to exist, that would create a regulatory burden to us," Village Trustee James Schultz said. "Let me be clear, I suggest that we create the language needed to prohibit (this)."

Four homes in Vernon Hills are already being advertised, according to Building Commissioner Mike Atkinson.

If Vernon Hills was to regulate Airbnb and other sites like it, Atkinson said trustees would need to consider factors like annual building inspections, parking requirements, limits on the number of renters and zoning restrictions, among other issues.

Trustees agreed that those topics would be difficult to address and enforce.

Assistant Village Manager Joe Carey said the four homes currently listed are all located near the Metra station along Route 45 and advertise rooms or a couch for rent between $48 and $69 per night.

"This is becoming a nightmare in some of these, what I would call, pretty high-end neighborhoods like Lincoln Park, where it turns into a bachelor pad or bachelorette pad," Byrne said. "If that happens every weekend, there might be vigilantes out there."

Village Trustee Thom Koch said Vernon Hills needed to either ban short-term vacation rentals or strictly regulate them before the activity becomes disruptive.

Atkinson said Vernon Hills' zoning ordinance already prohibits "lodging houses," but he said it is not defined. Atkinson said he will now create a definition for "lodging houses" that describes Airbnb or he will write a whole new sentence with a new term and definition.

Once that language is written, Atkinson said the zoning board will conduct a public hearing and the Village Board will hold a final vote after that.

"Even though boarding houses kind of helped make this country great during the initial development and march from east to west, I think that time is gone," Schultz said.

Schultz said the zoning language should somehow include the concept of "for profit" so it's distinguished from other, more acceptable temporary living arrangements.

"Right, because you don't want to prohibit foreign students from coming and staying with family for a semester or something like that," Village Trustee Tim Grieb said. "That's not the intent."

Byrne later compared Airbnb to people who own and lease entire townhouses. He said Vernon Hills monitors and enforces exterior maintenance standards, but he worries about how much interior work is done.

Trustees agreed that the topic is different than short-term vacation rentals and said it should be talked about some other time.

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