When: Lancaster City Council meeting, May 10.
What happened: After months of discussion and animated public debate, council unanimously voted to limit short-term rentals like Airbnbs and Vrbo rentals in the city.
Background: Lancaster city currently has a record of 41 units legally being used as short-term rentals, but third-party company Granicus Host Compliance — which the city hired to identify and monitor short-term rentals that operate in the community — estimates there are actually about 200 short-term rental units. The new amendment to the city’s zoning ordinance is intended to limit excessive investment properties in residential areas, chief city planner Douglas Smith explained at the April 26 meeting. Since January, the planning commission has held five public meetings on zoning changes as well as a listening session on short-term rentals.
Details: The amendment prevents new short-term rentals in the R3 and R4 districts, which includes most of the residential neighborhoods in 4 square miles of the city. New short-term rentals are allowed in commercial districts and mixed-use districts, and units currently legally being used as short-term rentals in the R3 and R4 districts may continue to operate.
Public debate: Residents spent an hour debating the ordinance. “This is maybe the most activated I’ve seen folks on an ordinance this year,” council President Ismail Smith-Wade El said. Christine Kaufman was among those in favor of the amendment: In the last six months, she said, three houses in her South Lime Street area have become Airbnbs, making the neighborhood less cohesive and properties more expensive. Among those against the amendment was Christy Griffin, who argued that short-term rentals support tourism, which in turn supports small businesses.
What’s next: The next meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. May 24 in Lancaster City Hall; the meeting will also be available to stream on the city’s YouTube page.