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City of Boise's proposed short term rental ordinance heads back to square one

Boise City Council members unanimously voted to send the proposal back for revisions after hearing dozens of public testimony Tuesday.

BOISE, Idaho — The proposed ordinance to license short-term rentals in the City of Boise is still up in the air. Boise City Council members unanimously voted to send the proposal back for revisions after hearing dozens of public testimony Tuesday.

"I think the council came up with a relatively clear direction that we would like to see something, but maybe more simple," Boise City Council President Elaine Clegg said.

The original proposal would require property owners who rent out a space for 30 days or less, like Airbnb and Vrbo, to pay $80 to the city to get a city license, provide liability insurance and contact information of the owner.

City of Boise Mayor Lauren McLean attributed the proposal as "one of many tools" the city has to create more affordable housing. However, those who spoke out against the proposal do not believe there is enough evidence that short-term rentals in Boise have much of an effect on the area's affordable housing.

A significant part of Tuesday's debate among city staff and the public was the language used in the proposal, which ultimately was one of the contributing factors to sending it back for rewrites in a future workshop. Clegg told KTVB Friday she believes the rewrites will help make the language more concise.

"[Make] it really focused on the public health and safety and the neighborhood integrity issues, not so much on some of the other things that were in the original proposal," Clegg said.

She hopes the future workshop will shift the ordinance's focus onto insurance, safety equipment, number of occupants expected, limiting noise, just to name a few.

Several community members and rental property owners Tuesday felt frustrated because the proposal stated any violation of the ordinance could be punishable as a misdemeanor. Clegg hopes to add more details to clear that up as well.

"I am very reluctant to use [punishment with a misdemeanor] unless there's really egregious violation of things," Clegg said. "In the past, we've instructed a first violation would be very minor, even a second or third. You would not impose a misdemeanor unless it was ongoing, ignored, or egregious."

Another council member with a lot of questions on the proposed ordinance is Council Member Patrick Bageant, who has been outspoken against including city licenses for short-term rental ordinances.

"The first thing I always want to know right away is what is the harm that we're trying to address, and second, does this address that harm?," explained Bageant.

Bageant believes the previous proposal made things tougher for local short-term rental owners. 

"If we ask a short-term rental operator to produce a floor plan for their home, an out-of-state team of architects could have it [quickly], your mom and pop in the neighborhood are not likely to," Bageant said. "In fact, those are the people who are most likely to be worried about code compliance issues and other things."

He would like to see more of the focus shift on insurance and safety requirements.

"The language of the ordinance itself is kind of squishy and a little fuzzy," Bageant said. "We do have some work to tighten that up."

The date of the workshop for the revision of the proposal has not been determined.

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