By Conrad Dudderar
Concerns about short-term house rentals in one neighborhood prompted spirited discussion at a recent public hearing about updating the City of Yukon’s development code and zoning map.
Several Parkland II homeowners vented their frustrations on April 10 to the Yukon Planning Commission about safety, noise, trash, lighting, and privacy issues related to renting a property known as an “Airbnb”.
Airbnb is a San Francisco-based company that operates an online marketplace for short-term homestays and experiences. These rentals have become prevalent in some residential neighborhoods, whereas motels and hotels are typically in commercial areas.
Over the past year, City of Yukon officials and Yukon Police have fielded complaints lodged by Parkland residents about an Airbnb dwelling in their addition.
Some Yukon citizens have asked the Yukon Planning Commission and City Council to restrict – or not allow – these short-term housing rentals.
At their April 10th meeting, Yukon planning commissioners recommended adopting the City of Yukon’s updated Unified Development Code and Zoning Map – while prohibiting accessory dwelling units in all zoning districts.
The new Unified Development Code will regulate future development within the municipal boundaries of Yukon, according to an April 4th city planning staff report.
The proposed code update contains new landscaping and screening standards and addresses modern uses such as short-term rentals, micro-food and/or beverage production, and office warehouse.
The Unified Development Code will bring all development-related regulations into one section of the municipal code; they are currently spread through multiple chapters and appendices.
Yukon’s code update project began in 2021.
The Yukon City Council will consider adopting the Unified Development Code and Zoning Map at its May 2nd meeting.
Yukon Planning Commission Chairman Bill Baker referred to The Village and Nichols Hills, two cities with ordinances in place that prohibit Airbnb rentals.
Yukon police officers must respond to complaints about loud parties, parking and other safety issues associated with these rented-out dwellings.
“It’s not the same partiers every night,” Baker said. “It’s different people at a different house every night that we’re asking them to enforce whatever we do tonight (with the code update).”
LICENSE, PERMIT REQUIREMENTS
The proposed Unified Development Code defines a short-term rental as: “Lodging services where the property owner rents short term, no more than 30 consecutive days, either entire units or rooms of a residential home or unit.”
Pending city council approval, Chapter 18 of the code would require a certified property owner/manager to apply for – and be granted – licenses and special use permits to have a short-term rental in Yukon.
If a licensee fails to comply with any conditions of the short-term rental license or special permit – or if the owner or occupant has endangered public health, safety or welfare – the City of Yukon “may deny, suspend or revoke” the license, the document reads.
“That’s the ‘teeth’ of this, in this case,” Yukon Planning Commissioner Nick Grba said. “At the present time, there isn’t anything that says the city can go after somebody who’s creating a nuisance like that, other than police showing up every other day.”
This code update will specifically prohibit short-term home rentals “for parties or for particular celebrations,” Yukon city planner Mark Zitzow said.
“That’s not what it’s designed for. Through this (process), we’ve used terms to prevent the ‘party house’, or for bachelor parties or bachelorette parties.”
Chapter 18’s language was designed to crack down on “bad actors” who violate the code by inappropriately renting out their properties, the city planner added.
“What we’re trying to do is put in penalties and fines that were so severe, if (a violation) did happen once, it likely cannot happen again.”
Airbnb daily rates in this area typically do not exceed $400, according to Zitzow.
The proposed code update lists fines of $200 per day for a first violation up to $680 on the third violation of an advertised property that was not granted a license.
The maximum fine would be $750 for a property that was approved for a license and is in violation of city code.
‘THEY’RE PEOPLE FROM OUTSIDE’
Several Parkland II residents, on E Platt and E Meade, voiced a myriad of concerns about a home near them that’s used as a short-term rental.
Mike Burris said all neighbors he’s spoken to would not want an Airbnb next door to them.
Burris talked about photos and videos shared with Yukon city officials that show guests at one Airbnb house climbing to the roof’s peak taking pictures of other people’s homes, and even jumping from the roof into a backyard pool.
At one party, Burris said, adult attendees were on the balcony “flicking smoking materials” into the yards with dry grass on both sides of the house during a “red flag fire warning”.
A Parkland II resident since 1981, Burris supports the city code preserving the residential character of Yukon’s neighborhoods – whether they are zoned for single- or multi-family dwellings.
But he contends Yukon is losing that residential character because of short-term house rentals.
“The people who are coming in – they aren’t residents,” Burris said. “They’re people from outside. If they’re people from Oklahoma City, they’re doing something at this house they can’t do at their own house.
“If they’re people from outside Oklahoma City or Oklahoma altogether coming in and renting the house, then they’re gone the next day. They don’t have any interest in the community because they aren’t part of this community.”
While police do not want to inhibit someone’s lawful right to use their property the way they want, Burris thinks Yukon residents’ rights also should be protected.
“At 2 o’clock in the morning, you’re hearing music that literally rattles the windows at my house,” he added. “We need some kind of zoning code that stops that kind of thing.”
Susan Burris said she knows city planners want to be progressive, but emphasized she is part of a “family community” and wants to keep it that way.
Mark Conine told planning commissioners he’s been in Yukon his whole life.
“The people who’ve lived here for 30 years-plus, our thoughts or our desires don’t matter?” he said. “Most of us have paid for our houses here.
“Why are we worried about somebody that’s going to come in, rent the place for 24 hours, throw a party and have a helluva good time, and then go back to Oklahoma City because they didn’t want to throw the party there and their neighbors get (p’d) off at them.”
Otis Davenport, a member of the Yukon Citizens Police Academy Alumni, has called in complaints about the Airbnb house to Yukon Police and spoken with Chief John Corn.
“During the day when these people are acting up, there’s not a lot the police department can do right now unless they’re breaking the law,” Davenport related. “If they’re disturbing the peace or making noise at night, we can call the police department and they’ll tell them to shut it down.
“We pretty much feel abandoned as citizens of Yukon, especially in this neighborhood with what’s known through the city as the ‘party house’.”
Linda Elledge said she went out to pick up trash thrown in her yard by Airbnb guests, only to be confronted by three large men.
“There were probably 40 people in that house,” Elledge said of one party. “Our neighbors couldn’t park in their driveway, and we couldn’t get out of our driveway because the road was just covered with cars.
“I’ve lived in that house 42 years. I pay my taxes. … You wouldn’t want to live next to an Airbnb. I don’t want to live next to an Airbnb.
“We are citizens of Yukon. We care about this city. … We spend our money in Yukon. Help us!”
Blake Keesee, of Garth Brooks Boulevard, suggested a solution to problems with short-term house rentals.
“A blanket ban,” Keesee told planning commissioners. “It seems it would be the best for these neighborhoods to stay in line with their founding principles (and) to preserve property values.
“I really don’t see any benefit to the town or the people who live here to have them.”
“It’s hard to call the police every time,” she said of noise and lighting complaints. “Just don’t allow Airbnbs. It’s scary to live next to one.”
‘WE DO CARE’
After hearing the neighbors’ concerns, Yukon Planning Commission Vice Chairman Jarrid Wright said he and fellow commissioners do care about Yukon.
“I live in Parkland I and I deal with horrible renters that live behind me,” Wright told the longtime Yukon homeowners. “So, I understand what your problems are, and I understand this is a worse-case scenario.
“Also understand our position. There is no fix-all. And what happens if we don’t do anything? I hear a lot of problems, but what is the solution?”
Having short-term rental requirements in the city code will give the City of Yukon “control” over these houses, Wright added.
City planner Zitzow explained this development code update will establish a process for someone seeking approval of an Airbnb in the City of Yukon.
“Nowhere would it allow any existing Airbnb to be ‘grandfathered’ in as existing, nonconforming,” he pointed out.
The proposal calls for some of the strictest special-use permit requirements for any use in the Oklahoma City metro, Zitzow added.
For example, all property owners within 600 feet would be notified about any request for a special use permit for a short-term rental in their neighborhood.
Also, license applicants would be required to follow an occupancy limit for the dwelling.
“We have put in fairly extreme fines for those bad actors to make sure they cannot operate,” Zitzow said. “Even then, if they were operating with a license, the city now has the ability to revoke the license.
“Today, part of the issue is, the code doesn’t speak to anything related to short-term rentals. So, the question always becomes, what ordinance are they breaking?”
In addition, short-term rental licenses and permits would require annual renewals.