Westwood neighborhood will add a new short-term rental property – Stillwater News Press

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Stillwater City Planner Jacqueline Porter announced at last week’s City Council meeting the planning commission received three letters of appeal to the approval of a short-term rental license at 311 South Eyler Lane and, because of these appeals, a public hearing was held at the City Council meeting.

Those who were against the approval of the short-term rental license were allotted five minutes each to share their opinions. Seven residents shared their concern of an addition of another short-term rental in the neighborhood – in which there are currently 12 active short-term rental licenses in the Westwood neighborhood.

Katherine Morris, the property owner, said her family purchased the house when her children decided to attend Oklahoma State University. However, Morris did not foresee the year-long break where her children did not need to reside in the home.

Morris would love to keep the house because she knows the house has much character, and her children will eventually need to live in the house. In order to afford to keep the home, Morris had to find other ways to bring in profit.

The main option Morris found beneficial is to use the home as a short-term rental. Morris understands the concerns of a short-term rental in a close-knit neighborhood, so she took precautions to protect her neighbors.

“I have some of the exact same fears of my home being a short-term rental as my neighbors do and, for that reason, I’ve put in a lot of measures into place to make sure that my guests respect the property and the neighborhood,” Morris said. “Some of those are a two-night minimum, there’s no automatic booking so that I can screen all of my guests, they’re notified of the rules … There is a rule for no parties or events. I explained the parking … so that they can only park in the driveway or in the garage.”

Morris said that her home is much better kept when she is taking care of it as a short-term rental, rather than when her children live there full time. To ensure the upkeep of the property, Morris invested time and money into her home.

Katie Omens, a Westwood neighborhood resident, is concerned about another short-term rental property entering the neighborhood.

“While our proximity to campus may make this an attractive area to operate a short-term rental property, what are the costs to the people who choose to own and live there,” Omens said. “Short-term tenants have little incentive to be neighborly … Thus, with the conversion of more and more homes into short-term rentals, what will happen to the character and attractiveness to our neighborhood?”

Gary Clark, a resident in the Westwood neighborhood, worries that the addition of another short-term rental will bring less affordable housing and destabilize housing markets.

“Please don’t allow an Airbnb to start an infection that will overcome our hard-earned neighborhood,” Clark said. “ … There is a simple question before the council tonight, do you license a business run by an absentee owner in the heart of the Westwood neighborhood or do you support the neighbors who live here, work here, pay taxes here, support the city, support charities and school bond issues and city tax issue because we appreciate the importance of a strong city and a strong neighborhood.”

Bob Graalman has lived in the neighborhood for 42 years with his wife, Diane, and both of them serve as co-presidents of the Westwood Neighborhood Association.

Graalman said around 15 years ago, the Westwood neighborhood’s quality of life decreased and the schools were much less attractive.

“Thanks to a City Council tool, The Conservation Overlay District, approved by a 5-0 vote I might say, things are much better. We’ve even heard suggestions that such measures might benefit other parts of Stillwater, as well.”

Graalman closed his opinion by reading the original purpose for the Westwood Neighborhood Association passed by the City Council at the time.

“The purpose of the WNA Conservation Overlay District is to facilitate preservations of an existing single-family residential neighborhood by establishing limitations and special requirements on property uses within said area that are inconsistent with the underlying, zoning and original construction thereof by providing a mechanism for making such inconsistent uses compatible when practicable and further providing for the amortization and elimination of such inconsistent uses when not practicable.”

Councilor Kevin Clark said he does not see how the application could be rejected.

“This application complies with our ordinance, and if we deny it I would expect that the homeowner is going to sue us and probably win because I can’t see any reason that we can justify not allowing it to go forward,” he said. “And that’s not that I, in any way, want to see the neighborhood association or the neighborhood damaged. … The homeowner has done everything that was asked of her.”

Mayor Will Joyce said decisions as difficult as these only occur every so often, and expressed his gratitude toward the members of the Westwood neighborhood.

“The fact of the matter is we have a short-term rental ordinance that allows for these to be issued. There is not a specific prohibition against that in this neighborhood, and there is not a specific problem or impact that can be identified for this property to not receive a permit. I don’t feel like it would be a proper use of our authority to say no to someone who’s followed all the rules that we gave them to follow based on what we think might be a negative impact or could be a negative impact in the future.”

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