Southern Illinois Landowners Petition to Change City Codes | Local News






Justin Zurlinden is collecting signatures on a petition to show Carbondale City Council that there is an interest in changing the city’s code that currently requires owners of short-term rentals, such as those offered by Airbnb and VRBO, to live there. Zurlinden believes that removing this requirement will increase investment in the rental market, improve the city’s housing stock and increase tourism.


Byron Hetzler



More than 100 people have signed an online petition calling on the town of Carbondale to ease restrictions on short-term rental properties — the types listed on travel rental websites such as VRBO and Airbnb.

Currently, Carbondale allows owners to list their property as a vacation rental as long as it is “owner-occupied,” meaning those listing the unit live in the house or on the property. Those behind the petition, including Justin Zurlinden, want to see this restriction removed.

“Right now, to list a property on Airbnb or VRBO, you have to live on site where you have guests,” said Zurlinden, who owns several properties in Carbondale that he thinks would make good vacation rentals. “Technically, my house is eligible because it has an attached apartment. This apartment could be a rental, but any other property I own where I don’t live is not eligible.

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City code also requires that the property be licensed by the city as a rental property, subject to regular inspections.

Zurlinden said he understands the city code was originally written for landlords to be sure to maintain their rentals and allow guest supervision, but he says a loophole allows landlords on-site to rent their house when they are away – even on holiday themselves. It would allow owners of other properties to have the same leeway – eliminating the “owner-occupier” provision.

He said a code change would allow some of the vacant homes or rental stock in the community to be renovated and become a source of revenue.

“A lot of rentals in Carbondale need money,” he said. “They need work, they need updates and they need love. They need someone who cares and if we can get people motivated by saying ‘Update this house and use it like an AirBnb’ I think these properties would be better maintained than traditional rentals .

He said concerns about unruly tenants and poorly maintained properties are unfounded, explaining that rental websites will void a landlord’s membership if they allow parties or large gatherings at a property and, thanks in the opinion of customers, dirty or dilapidated units will quickly go bankrupt. .

D. Gorton is an Airbnb Ambassador. His “Carbondale Pool House” is a popular short-term rental (he resides in the main house of the property). He said he saw the need for the changes suggested by Zurlinden.

“For a long time, we felt like it was the wrong thing to do,” Gorton admitted. “However, I changed my mind. We have far too many vacancies in our community. It’s something Carbondale needs.

Gorton said his rental was booked for much of the fall and he would welcome more competition.

“It seems like if people can take those vacant homes and turn them into well-run businesses, I think that’s a good idea and exactly what should happen.”

Gorton’s vision has been realized in other communities in the region. Jason Powell manages over a dozen short-term rentals in Marion and Williamson County. He said Airbnbs there must be registered with the city and undergo regular inspections, offering a guarantee.

“If you have any issues, like if the police have been called to the property, they can take away your short-term rental license,” Powell said.

Carbondale Town Manager Gary Williams said he would be open to council considering a change to the vacation rental unit code.

“At a staff level, we are open to suggestions as we realize the Airbnb market is large and we realize we have a lot of tourism opportunities in the area that we could capitalize on. We also have a lot of older accommodation where owners might have a vision to improve them and make them Airbnbs,” he said. “At the same time, we’re concerned about how they’re managed and what impact that might have on other landlords in the neighborhood. If we can find a balance to make this all work, I think we can support it.

Powell said one of his Williamson County properties has been viewed online more than 45,000 times.

“There is a real demand there for short-term rentals. You can’t ignore that,” he said. “A lot of people who travel don’t use hotels anymore; they want to bring their whole family and their pet to scatter in a house.

There is a need for more vacation rentals in Carbondale, Powell noted. He said many of his vacation renters stayed in Williamson County because they couldn’t find a home in Carbondale.

“These people are eating at our restaurants in Marion because they are staying here. They stop at the gas station and fill up here because that’s where they live,” he said. “I think Carbondale is missing huge opportunities.”

About Michael B. Billingsley

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