Weston resident seeks board approval for vacation rental properties in town

WESTON, Mo. — Just months after a controversy over an unauthorized vacation rental property, the subject came up again at a Weston Board of Aldermen meeting. Wendy Maupin, a resident on Washington Street, recently sent a proposal to the aldermen, seeking to legalize vacation rental properties within the city. The matter was discussed at length during the Monday, Oct. 12 regular meeting.

“I would like to build a bridge for citizens and the city to come together and maybe overcome some fears regarding this,” Maupin told the board.

Maupin said during her informal poll of residents she encountered approximately 90 percent support for some form of permitted vacation rental.

The current vacation rental property trend is generally brokered through online networks such as airbnb.com, where hosts and guests may meet and book dates to rent vacant homes, spare bedrooms and even sofas and backyard space.

“Allowing people to rent out their homes allows people to bring their kids and pets with them,” Maupin said. “If they’re able to bring their families and stay, maybe they will like Weston and want to move here.”

Plattsburg, Mo. and Hermann, Mo. allow short-term rentals such as this in their municipal codes, Maupin said, and she wishes to open a dialogue with the city to seek legalization of the option in Weston as well. She said she has a petition with 40 signatures and wants to survey residents to learn how many would favor the change.

Maupin is also creating a website to pursue the issue.

“Are you willing to look at an issue that continues to come across your desks and continues to be discussed regularly on the streets of Weston, both by residents and tourists?” Maupin wrote in her email to the aldermen.

While the city invites in tourists for events such as the recent Applefest and Irish Fest, there are few places in town for those tourists to stay overnight.

“They’re coming every weekend, and we’re kicking them out every weekend,” Maupin said. Weston mayor Kent Stelljes said he had not received as many positive comments regarding short-term rentals as Maupin had.

“I’ve gotten a good, healthy dose of calls and emails,” Stelljes said. “If this does move forward, it will be a slow and methodical process.”

Weston alderman Patrick Farnan will act as liaison between Maupin and the city staff and elected officials regarding the matter. Maupin said she plans to soon submit a proposal to local press and publicize the website to try to start meaningful community discussion.

Last spring, the city stopped the unauthorized rental of a home at the corner of Thomas and Washington streets through a similar short-term rental site, VRBO.com. For several months, the home was available to rent to up to 10 people at a time in the four-bedroom home for $165-$185 per night.

Residents complained they saw dozens of people cycle through the home during that period with these short-term residents taking up parking and making nearby property owners uncomfortable. The situation caused residents to ask questions because it was not a bed and breakfast operation — which requires an owner present on the property while boarders stay — not a hotel and not a long-term rental property.

Also at the meeting, Make it Happen Committee chair Jeff Elsea spoke to the board about the plan to convert the old city police station on Thomas Street into public restrooms. The committee has pursued a grant from Home Depot to help pay for the conversion, and although it was denied, this was primarily due to the need for HVAC work at the building. Elsea said the Weston Rotary has agreed to donate $5,000 to cover the needed climate control work, which paves the way to re-apply for the Home Depot grant.

Weston alderman Joyce Burch said while she understands the need for more restrooms, she is wary. “The public is not kind to public restrooms,” Burch said. “I want you all to be prepared for what we may be getting ourselves into.”

West Platte opened its Benner Park restroom facilities for Applefest and Burch said she had heard those restrooms were “beyond trashed.” Also, she was concerned city staff would be taking time from other duties to keep the restrooms clean and operational.

Elsea said Weston merchants pay $300,000 per year into the city coffers in tax revenues, which would help pay for staff time to keep needed restroom facilities in order.

“That’s a lot of money; that’s a big part of the city’s budget,” Elsea said.

Weston Chamber of Commerce president Pat Egan pointed out that with McCormick Distillery again starting tours, even more tourists will start coming to the city in the next year.

“We have to take care of our visitors if we want them to come back,” said Egan, who earlier in the meeting reported Applefest had an attendance of about 30,000 people with more than $13,500 in donations raised.