WESTON, Mo. — An unlicensed “vacation home” became the latest topic of discussion for the City of Weston.Residents near the downtown historic district turned out in force at the Weston Board of Aldermen meeting on Monday, March 9 to voice concerns about the residence located at the corner of Thomas and Washington streets. For the past several months, the home has been available to rent online as a short-term vacation rental property, sleeping up to 10 people at a time in the four-bedroom home according to the listing at VRBO.com. The home goes for $165-185 per night with a two-night minimum.
Residents complain they have seen dozens of people cycle through the home over the past few months with the short-term residents taking up parking and making nearby property owners uncomfortable.
The situation raises several questions because the property is not a bed and breakfast operation, which requires an owner present while boarders stay, nor a hotel or long-term rental property. According to the website, the home has bookings through July.
Susan Phillips, a neighbor, spoke up for the residents present at the meeting, asking the city do something to stop the operation. She told the board the owners are “thumbing their noses in your face.”
Additionally, the city was losing out on tax income from the business.
City attorney Jeremy Webb said first-time zoning violation tickets had been issued to the property owners with an April court date. For the first violation, the owners face up to a $250 fine or 10 days in jail. He explained that the city cannot accuse the property owners of wrongdoing without proof and said the neighbors’ vigilance would help with that.
“We can’t write a ticket until it happens, and we don’t know when it happens,” Webb said.
“So can we call the police when we see it?” Phillips asked.
Webb said that would help. Officers would then know when to investigate activity at the house, though chief of police Terry Blanton cautioned that there was no way for the officers to determine who was spending the night at the house and who wasn’t.
“You all are the witnesses,” Weston mayor Howard Hellebuyck told residents. “If you see people there at night and then see them leave the next morning then that’s pretty obvious.”
Phillips and other neighbors said they were willing to come to court next month. The ongoing controversy around one bed and breakfast owner’s special use permit request also led to a split vote of the board Monday night. Aldermen Joyce Burch and Bill Baker voted yes on a resolution approving the special use permit with Kent Stelljes and Tim Hill abstaining.
As previously reported in the Citizen, Weston Select Bed and Breakfast owner Bill Jurgens applied for a special use permit as he plans to sell his property this spring.
Currently, the bed and breakfast operates out of two structures, one housing the main bed and breakfast and a carriage house. An additional zoning exception permit would be required for guests to stay in either structure, although the two structures would still be considered one business.
The planning and zoning commission as well as the board of aldermen have discussed the matter for several months at various meetings, and again, a group of residents attended the meeting to voice concerns.
Hellebuyck suggested the special use permit should again be kicked back to planning and zoning for more discussion, considering the general dissatisfaction in the community.
“It’s not that this hasn’t been discussed for months already,” he said, “but we’re giving everybody a second chance on this.”
Webb clarified the intent and wording of the resolution. The permit would extend the existing special use permit for the secondary property. It is not a new special use permit, and if the property were later split and sold to two owners, it would not transfer.
“If we send this back to planning and zoning and ask them to look at it again, they’ll say ‘Yes. That’s what we’ve already told you,’” Webb said.
The resolution passed, as the abstentions do not count against the favorable votes. A future sewer rate increase, however, will fail due to a split vote.
The city’s outside consultant notified the city earlier this year that a rate increase would be required to cover current and future sewer system needs. The board could not reach an agreement on the increased rate.
Currently, the minimum sewer charge is $11.93 per month with a $2.32 fee per 1,000 gallons of water used. It was recommended the city increase this to a base fee of $20 and $3.60 for usage. Board members felt this increase was far too steep and discussed several options but could not come to a conclusive agreement. Hill suggested a $17 minimum rate with $4.50 per 1,000 gallons, which tentatively passed on a 2-1-1 vote.
City clerk Kim Kirby said such a vote would not be sufficient to pass a final ordinance at the April meeting.
Also at the meeting, city officials encouraged residents to check out the new city website at westonmo.us. The site recently launched, and officials hope to add features and additional city information over the next several months.
Currently, the city offers online bill pay for water through the site.
The board also set a special meeting for 5 p.m. March 19 at city hall to discuss the Washington and Spring street projects. The public is invited to attend.