Rejecting a recommendation from the Plan Commission, Morton Grove trustees upheld a ban on operating Airbnb-type short-term rentals in the village.
The Village Board voted unanimously at its Tuesday, Jan. 23 meeting to add text to the current ban to carefully define “short term dwelling units” after rejecting the commission’s proposal to allow such rentals. Airbnb is a company that has become best known for the short-term rentals, but there are others.
The board approved the measure with no discussion, even though two trustees had raised questions at the Jan. 9 meeting about rejecting the Plan Commission’s recommendation.
Trustee Rita Minx, who said at the earlier meeting that she was not sure of how she would vote on upholding the ban, said Tuesday that she received all of the information she needed to confirm her support.
“There was clarification on several different points,” Minx said. “I can’t explain it all. (Community Development Administrator) Zoe (Heidorn) provided me with a matrix that had all the answers.”
Despite the unanimous vote, Village President Dan DiMaria said that he supports allowing Airbnb-type short-term rentals in Morton Grove.
“I want to let people know that board members take a lot of heat that everything gets rubber-stamped through,” DiMaria said. “I was not for this ordinance. These are individual thinkers. They make up their own minds. I don’t influence their votes.”
DiMaria said he believes there are economic benefits to allowing the short-term rentals.
“It brings people to Morton Grove and some people end up buying things in Morton Grove,” he said. “There should be certain limits. We don’t want things going wild, but Airbnb is fine. We could have some regulations on it. We don’t have to abolish it.”
DiMaria said the ordinance could be reviewed again, if enough residents support the idea.
“If enough people want to change it, we have to take a look,” he said. “But this is where we are for now.”
Trustee Janine Witko, who presented the motion to affirm the ban, said most residents oppose allowing Airbnbs in Morton Grove.
“We’ve received many people calling,” Witko said. “A couple people came to the Plan Commission meetings and gave horror stories. One woman said people rented next door for a low price and there were men smoking in the yard late at night and they did not maintain their property.”
The board agreed that short-term rentals simply do not belong in Morton Grove, she said.
“Trustees do not feel it is in keeping with our close-knit community with the feeling of knowing your neighbors,” Witko said.
Trustees do not often reject the Plan Commission’s recommendations, she said.
“They’re just a recommending body,” Witko said. “Typically, we take their recommendation into advisement and agree. It’s just that in this case we did not.”
Laura Yates, who owns a home in Morton Grove that she and her husband were leasing as an Airbnb, said she was disappointed in the board’s vote.
Yates argued that Airbnbs meet at least three of the core economic areas desired by the Economic Development Commission, including continuing and enhancing senior services, generating tax revenue and improving the character of the community.
She disputed a Plan Commission member’s claim that Airbnbs do not generate enough local revenue to justify allowing them.
Yates said Oak Park voted to allow Airbnbs and generated $62,868 from 37 short-term rentals in just a few months.
“Rather than banning us, wouldn’t it have been better to partner with us?” she said. “We provide a valuable resource that costs nothing to the village.”
Yates’ husband, Steve Yates,, said they temporarily operated the Airbnb because they were told by a village employee that such a use was permitted.
Several neighboring communities allow Airbnb-type short-term rentals. Niles, for example, allows them in commercial zoning areas with proper approval, said Mitch Johnson.