Council votes down short-term rentals ordinance

The Homer city council will continue conversation on housing and short term rentals

The first instance of short-term rental regulation in the City of Homer is dead in the water as of Monday.

The Homer City Council unanimously voted down Ordinance 23-61(S) at their regular meeting on Feb. 26. The ordinance would have amended Homer City Code Title 8 to add Chapter 8.05 Short Term Rentals, which would require that short-term rental owners register their businesses with the city including state business license and Kenai Peninsula Borough sales tax compliance, self-certify basic life safety measures taken including fire extinguishers and carbon monoxide detectors, and provide local emergency contact information to the Homer Police Department.

The ordinance did not set a cap or limit on the number of short-term rentals to be allowed within city limits or provide for any other kind of regulation at this time.

Public testimony during the meeting showed the public’s general disapproval of the ordinance as it was being presented on Monday. Several community members were against city regulation of the industry and argued that short-term rentals — or specifically bed-and-breakfast establishments — had a long history in Homer and were more beneficial to the community than not.

Others urged the council to postpone deciding on the ordinance, saying it was not ready to be voted on Monday night.

Marcia Kuszmaul, president of the Homer Bed and Breakfast Association, advocated for “universal compliance.”

“We have business licenses. We have enterprise or business insurance. We pay our sales tax and we want everyone who’s in the same business as we are to do the same,” she said. “We’re interested in … having universal compliance and having definitions that folks agree with and recognize where they fit in the framework. So we believe the ordinance is premature for lack of better understanding of the vision and the role of short-term rentals in the community.”

Kuszmaul also said that, whatever regulations do come, they should be consistent with state regulations so as to diminish confusion for short-term rental owners.

Kathy Carssow, Library Advisory Board member and chair of the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee, expressed concerns over some types of short-term rentals existing in residential neighborhoods.

“The zoning ordinance says that a bed-and-breakfast must be accessory to, and in a dwelling occupied by, the operator as the operator’s primary residence. If it doesn’t mean that non-owner-occupied bed-and-breakfasts are nonconforming, then I don’t know what it means,” she said. “I think it’s very important that (the ordinance) not pass if it isn’t going to make the distinction between owner-occupied and not-owner-occupied (rentals).”

Council member Donna Aderhold said that the ordinance was “never intended to be a negative thing.”

“This came out of our visioning session a couple of years ago and realizing that … we had housing issues, and trying to understand what is the city’s role in housing. The whole point here is that there were no data that was available to the city on the lay of the land for short-term rentals,” she said.

Aderhold said that the ordinance “came from a good place” of trying to understand whether additional regulation was needed.

“What I do know is that we have learned a ton from all of the work that has been done in the last couple of months on this ordinance,” she said.

Discussion among the council members revealed that they intended, based on staff recommendation, to postpone a vote on Ordinance 23-61(S) for four weeks, citing that the ordinance had not yet undergone legal review by the city attorney.

Additionally, both the Economic Development Advisory Commission, which reviewed the ordinance at their Feb. 13 meeting, and the Planning Commission, which reviewed it at their Feb. 21 meeting, had passed recommendations on to the council to “bring the ordinance back to the drawing board and drill down deeper into the issues that they envisioned that this ordinance would address and take into consideration all points made by the EDC, the Planning Commission and members of the public.”

Postponement of the ordinance until March 26 failed in a 4-2 vote. Council members Aderhold and Jason Davis, who also sponsored the ordinance, voted in favor of postponement. Council members Rachel Lord, Caroline Venuti, Shelly Erickson and Storm Hansen voted against.

Since postponement was voted down and the ordinance had not yet received legal review, the council was also unable to pass the ordinance on Monday.

“(It’s) a little bit sad because it didn’t give council member Davis and I the opportunity to go back and address any of the comments,” Aderhold said after the vote. “I will be committed to continuing this conversation … to figure out how we move forward.

“I have some ideas, because doing it through an ordinance is really awkward, when what we need to have is a community conversation about what we want for short term rentals, and doing that as a separate thing at the same time that we’re gearing up for a huge public outreach process for the comprehensive plan is problematic on a number of fronts,” she said.

Ordinance 23-61(S) and supplemental materials, as well as the full recording of the Feb. 26 meeting, are available at

The next city council regular meeting will be held on Monday, March 6 at 6 p.m. in the Homer City Hall Cowles Council Chambers.