Zoning board eyes short-term rentals and signs

Debbie Blank | The Herald-TribuneIzzy’s at Hillcrest co-owners (from left) Bill Gardner and Adam Israel and Pro-Prints CEO John Webber listen to the discussion about their proposed signs.

Batesville Advisory Plan Commission and Batesville Board of Zoning Appeals members discussed Feb. 1 whether to regulate short-term home and apartment rentals.

David Raver, who presides over both panels, explained the internet trend is to "rent your house out for a night or a weekend, kind of like a bed-and-breakfast. It's a place to stay ... They may occasionally provide meals. We had one in town for some time." (Two Batesville homes now are listed at https://www.airbnb.com.)

Neighbors told city leaders they were concerned about one short-term rental because "quite a few people (were) staying there." They found as many as four or five cars parked on a narrow cul-de-sac "a real inconvenience."

Former city attorney Lynn Fledderman sent a letter to the owner, "but I don't think we prohibited him from doing it." Officials asked the owner to better monitor parking.

Tim Macyauski, city director of operations, who oversees the Building Department and is a BAPC member, recalled he wondered if owners were following city safety codes, such as having a smoke detector in each bedroom.

The president recalled, "The city of Carmel fought this last year." In the end, officials "made you pay a fee annually to be able to operate that business. They also had the request come before the zoning board. I'm not sure we want to do that .... If we don't have a set of guidelines or standards, we have nothing to base a decision on."

Charging fees "was Carmel's effort to discourage (the practice) and pick up a few bucks if the community was going to do it."

Macyauski reported Carmel charges a short-term rental owner a first-year $100 application fee, then $50 in subsequent years. BAPC and BBZA member Tony Gutzwiller observed, "We don't make any other businesses do that."

According to mayor and BAPC member Mike Bettice, "State legislators looked at it last year and did not come to a conclusion" about how to regulate airbnbs.

"There was a bill going through the House early on" in 2018, he reported. Proposed Indiana House Bill 1035 states "a short-term rental of an owner's primary residence is a permitted residential use under any applicable ordinance and may not be disallowed. (2) Provides that, in the case of residential property that is not the person's primary residence, a local unit of government ... may require a special exception, special use or zoning variance for the short-term rental of the property; and ... may not interpret and enforce zoning regulations for a special exception, special use or zoning variance in a manner that is intended or has the effect of prohibiting or unreasonably restricting all short-term rentals of the property. (3) Allows a local unit to regulate short-term rental of residential property only for specified purposes. (4) Allows a local unit to require an owner to obtain a permit for a short-term rental. (5) Allows a local unit to charge a permit fee of not more than $150. (6) Allows a local unit to limit or prohibit short-term rentals located within a conservancy district. Exempts ordinances adopted before Jan. 1, 2018, that are contrary to the provisions of the bill. Excludes property owners associations from the provisions of the bill."

It was passed by the House on its third reading and was referred to the Senate's Local Government Committee.

Of regulating short-term rentals, Raver said, "We're not sure we can get in the way of it even if we wanted to. We let people rent houses" on a more permanent basis. City attorney Doug Wilson is exploring "what options we even have."

"It's your house and you probably have the right to do what you want with it ... We'll just have to learn more. It's not been a big issue."

Izzy's Restaurant Inc. co-owners Adam Israel and Bill Gardner applied to BBZA for two variances to install a freestanding business sign for their new Izzy’s at Hillcrest restaurant at 850 N. Walnut St.

Members had to decide whether to allow a sign in a residential area and one that was larger than the mandated 60 square feet on each side.

Pro-Prints, Batesville, CEO John Webber described the three signs the owners want to install on the country club property. The one-sided freestanding sign would be placed just southeast of the state roads 229 and 46 intersection. "We want to attract the attention of every single individual in Batesville and then some."

The one-sided sign would be 160 square feet – 16 feet tall (the maximum height the city allows) by 10 feet wide. Webber explained "why we need it to be this size: I took an aerial photograph ... and there's a very deep slope here that we're trying to reach." Of the size, he said, "It's not huge. The CVS Pharmacy sign is very similar. It's probably 21 feet tall. This is very comparable to that sign."

The sign would not be lit from within, but have high-intensity LED uplighting to be visible at night. "It won't affect anybody driving" as the lights will be facing the sign.

Raver asked, "Will lighting bleed very much past the sign?" Webber did not believe so.

The sign company president pointed out, "Hillcrest is still a golf and country club. However, we still need signs for Izzy's for directional purposes" to indicate the restaurant entrance. He proposed two two-sided signs, each 5 feet wide by 20 inches tall. They would be installed near the Hillcrest entrances and perpendicular to S.R. 46 and Walnut Street (S.R. 229).

Raver noted they must be far enough back from the roads to not block views of drivers who are turning.

"We do plan on lighting them internally" using lower-intensity LED bulbs "where it's not too overbearing for the drivers," said Webber. Macyauski advised, "If there's a glare, we're going to request that it be lowered."

BAPC member Tracy Rohlfing asked about right of ways that would influence placement of the signs. Some, but not all, utility lines already are marked, according to the Pro-Prints owner.

Gardner said he has an area plat that shows utility lines. Macyauski reported the corner sign must be at least 6 feet away from a gas line there.

Of signs placement, the BBZA president said, "I would be inclined to trust Tim to approve (them) on our behalf" because he knows setback rules of the utilities, city and state.

Macyauski said there were no written objections from neighbors and none spoke at the public hearing.

The high school and middle school, Liberty Park and baseball and soccer fields have the same zoning as Hillcrest, Residential-2. According to Raver, "It's not uncommon for places to be zoned residential. Obviously, they aren't (all) used residential. Technically signs aren't allowed there."

He observed, "This is the first time we've broached State Road 46 (to the south) with signage that doesn't comply" with city ordinances. Raver noted after the meeting variances have been granted for a few businesses that border I-74, but not along Walnut Street. During the meeting, he added, "I don't think this will set a precedent that will come back to haunt us ... There's not going to be this type of signage request" except perhaps from a downtown firm.

BBZA member Chris Fairchild said of the country club, "Nobody lives there. We already have signs (at Hillcrest). We're not starting anything new."

The panel (Raver, Fairchild, Gutzwiller and Luke Kaiser; Ken Wanstrath was absent) voted 4-0 twice, granting variances to permit a sign in R-2 and one that exceeded size limits.

Debbie Blank can be contacted at debbie.blank@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.

Leadership

• Batesville Advisory Plan Commission President David Raver and Vice President Tony Gutzwiller were re-elected to those positions. Gutzwiller was re-appointed to serve on BBZA as well.

• BBZA President David Raver and Vice President Ken Wanstrath also were re-elected.

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