WESTON, Mo. — The city of Weston continues to struggle with how to handle regulations on outbuildings on private property.
At the board of aldermen meeting Monday, March 14, the board addressed growing concerns about the number of metal shipping containers showing up on properties around the city. Weston mayor Kent Stelljes said he’d recently heard from citizens questioning the validity of those containers — which technically are moveable, although one in question hasn’t moved for at least a year. Citizens have asked why the city regulates prefabricated moveable sheds but so far hasn’t imposed the same requirements on shipping containers.
“I don’t know if people haul them in at midnight or what; they just show up,” said Weston director of public works Mike Large.
Further complicating the issue is that some people use such shipping containers as the basis of tiny houses — small, sometimes moveable residences of 100 to 500 square feet. So far, this hasn’t happened in Weston, but the aldermen speculated it could.
The city’s planning and zoning commission was recently tasked with looking at the tiny house trend but so far has not come to any conclusions on the matter.
The board suggested planning and zoning also take a look at shipping containers, but city attorney Jeremy Webb said before that, he would investigate the city ordinances. There could already be something on the books, or within the International Building Code, that would cover residential use of shipping containers. He suggested the city could simply prohibit them if they are becoming an issue.
“It makes more sense to me to decide what you want and what you don’t and just make it really clear to residents,” Webb said.
The aldermen agreed that something needed to be done.
“This storage shed situation is getting way out of control,” Large said.
Stelljes and alderman Mark Seymour noted that the city would need to differentiate between semi-permanent shipping containers that people are parking on their property for long-term storage and short-term rental containers like Pods, which are used for just a few weeks while moving. There could also be a difference between commercial storage shipping containers, such as those currently being used at the school during the construction projects, and those popping up as residential sheds.
Planning and zoning concerns were also at the heart of a request from Weston resident Wendy Maupin, who attended the meeting asking if the board had given any thought to her proposal to legalize short-term vacation rental properties. Maupin attended the October 2015 meeting, saying during her informal poll 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 back yard space.
Maupin said Plattsburg and Hermann, Mo. allow short-term rentals in their municipal codes, and she wants dialog with the city to seek legalization of the option in Weston.
Last fall, Maupin presented the city with a petition and said she believed allowing people to rent owner-occupied homes would allow visitors to bring their kids and pets and may inspire some of those tourists to move to the city. At the Monday meeting, she said she wanted an update on aldermen’s thoughts on her cause.
“I’ve spoken to people about this too, and I would say my results were a little different from yours,” Stelljes said, adding that about 70 percent of those he’d heard from were opposed to the idea. “It’s one of those touchy things that some people love it. Some people really don’t love it.”
With street and sewer projects already on the city’s plate, Stelljes admitted not much consideration had been given to the proposal. However, the matter will now be referred back to the planning and zoning commission to research a similar measure that was considered and rejected in the early 2000s.
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.