Jerome kills residential parking ordinance

Council will study ordinance on illegal rental units

JEROME - The Town Council Tuesday night held discussions on two draft ordinances. The first was for residential parking regulations and fees and the creation of a municipal parking bureau. The second was to establish a process so some multiple-family dwellings currently being used illegally as rentals could obtain legal non-conforming status or qualify for conditional-use permits.

After discussion on the first draft ordinance, the council decided to drop the idea of more residential parking regulations and creating a parking bureau. But the council decided to pursue more information on an ordinance that would add more rental units to the town's utility and tax base by giving them a legal means to declare themselves as rentals.

During discussion of the parking draft ordinance, Town Manager Candace Gallagher told the council that the idea for a parking bureau was part of a proposed ordinance put together by Police Chief Allen Muma. That proposed ordinance was prepared some time ago when the town was considering putting parking kiosks in the business district. Muma's reasoning at that time was that the town would be able to keep more of the parking fees collected if it had a municipal parking bureau.

"We took the parking bureau out of this ordinance," Gallagher said.

Gallagher explained that the draft ordinance was a work in progress, and it was designed to allow for any changes the council might want to make. She said the draft suggested that each resident get two free parking permits for residential parking, and two more permits could be purchased.

Councilman Lew Currier said he lives in the Gulch area of Jerome, which is not included in the draft ordinance. He asked what happens if he goes to play bridge for a few hours at a friend's home in Jerome. "Do I need a police permit," he asked. "I don't think this is broad enough."

Currier said he doesn't want to have to get a police permit to visit his neighbors.

Councilwoman Christine Barag agreed. "Our people don't want this," she said.

Former councilwoman Rebekah Kennedy asked how the town would enforce the residential parking restrictions. "I don't want you guys telling me when and where to park."

Mayor Jay Kinsella suggested that the council not pursue the residential parking ordinance at this time. "I don't feel comfortable in directing staff to do anything more on this."

The council agreed.

Then the council discussed the draft ordinance on illegal rentals.

The town's attorney Kathleen Williamson explained the idea behind the proposed ordinance. She said there are rumors in Jerome that the town has a lot if illegal rental units.

Those rental units are in the residential area zoned for single-family dwellings. Over the years, some of those homes have been divided into duplex units or other multiple rental units.

Various town councils have discussed the matter over the years. The problem from the town's perspective is that sales tax should be charged for rental fees. Also, water usage should be charged for individual rental units instead of for a single-family home.

It has been discussed in the past that to properly charge each rental unit, those units must first be declared as rentals. Most people are not going to voluntarily come forward and declare a rental that is currently illegal. Consequently, the council thought those units could be properly accounted for by creating a system of allowing legal non-conforming use or conditional-use permits.

Then those rental unit owners would be willing to register their properties as rentals.

Williamson said that before the council can move in that direction it would first need factual findings. She explained that state laws involved in either non-conforming use or conditional-use permits can be complicated.

"We must get facts first," she said.

Kinsella said that before the council goes any further on the issue, it should have staff do a survey to first determine how many illegal rental units are in town. And before that survey can take place, the staff must decide how to conduct the survey.

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