City Council pushes back decision on short-term rental


Residents of Ames gather Sept. 25, 2018, at City Hall.

Talon Delaney

The Ames City Council pushed back a decision on the city’s short-term rental (STR) policies. Instead, the Council would like more data about STRs to be gathered.

STRs like Airbnb allow home occupants to rent out whole or partial residences to travelers for a short period of time. The proposed reforms from City Planning and Housing only allow owner-occupied, single family homes to be used as STRs, not apartments or duplexes.

“I want to allow the people to continue what they’re already doing,” Councilman Tim Gartin said. “I’d need some evidence to exclude [renters] from continuing hosting Airbnbs.”

Councilwoman Gloria Betcher refused to approve a referendum that allows renters to host an Airbnb.

“I’m not willing to include rentals,” Betcher said. “If we do that I’m not voting for the ordinance.”

The Council will table further decision regarding STRs until they receive data from planning and housing staff regarding renter STRs and feedback from Iowa State students.

“I think this could hurt students the most,” Gartin said. “We want to make decisions based on data, and we don’t have the data here.”

Ames resident Jeff Hart began renting out part of his house on Harding Avenue after his son moved out in 2016. He offered his voice to the Council to represent Airbnb hosts in Ames.

“I’ve hosted people defending their doctoral dissertations and people seeking their first time lodgings in the U.S., sometimes while they wait for a long term rental,” Hart said. “I’ve even helped some of those people move into their new homes. I want to be supported by the city just as I support people in my home.”

The council also showed concern regarding certain properties owned by Mary Greeley Medical Center. The language of proposed referendums didn’t allow their properties to be used as STRs.

The current language of these referendums would only allow three forms of STRs: Home shares, hosted-home shares and vacation rentals. Home shares are the only STR that doesn’t require an owner-occupied residence, but could only rent for 90 days per year. No other STRs have such a limit, but guests can only stay in a STR for a maximum of 30 days.

The council also hosted a seminar for Rhinehart Pulliam and Co., a Georgia-based architecture and design company, as part of their plans for building new residential subdivisions. They gave the floor to Robert Pulliam, a town planner and co-founder of the company.

Pulliam shared a 40 minute long presentation showcasing his companies techniques and philosophies concerning town and home building. He showed Serenbe, Georgia, as an example, and how Rhinehart Pulliam and Co. helped build neighborhoods while preserving the surrounding nature.

“The fundamental ideas behind Serenbe can be applied anywhere,” Pulliam said. “Ames is a beautiful town with first-class architecture. As a land planner we have to understand how the land is going to be used so we can work with any pattern that may form.”

No decisions were made concerning the hiring of Rhinehart Pulliam and Co.

“We’ve done stuff all around the country,” Pulliam said. “But not so much in the heartland. A lot of what I see here reminds me of home, and I’d be excited to do business here.”