Ordinance repeals zoning regulations on boarders, tourists, renting of rooms

By Bill Short

The Oakland Board of Mayor and Aldermen has passed an ordinance on final reading that repeals regulations regarding boarders, tourists and renting of rooms.
Board members took the action during their July 16 regular monthly meeting on a motion offered by Alderman Billy Ray Morris and seconded by Alderman Kelly Rector. The motion was passed by three affirmative votes, with Alderman John Troncone absent.
The ordinance was unanimously passed on first reading at the board’s June 18 meeting.
It repeals the definitions of boarders, tourists and the renting of rooms from the text of the Oakland Municipal Zoning Ordinance and deletes those categories as uses permitted on appeal in residential districts.
During discussion at the June 18 meeting, Troncone asked why the amending ordinance is necessary. He speculated that it was brought to the board’s attention because “something had to have come up.”
Mayor Chris Goodman noted that the Oakland Municipal Planning Commission reviewed the ordinance during its June 2 meeting and recommended it for board approval.
Town Planner Chris Pate said that, during the review by the staff, he “recognized” that there had been some “concerns” about rental properties in Oakland.
He decided that the planning commission should review it, rather than a resident being “surprised” if his neighbor received approval from the Oakland Board of Zoning Appeals to have a boarding house.
“The intent and discussion initially was to make single-family districts strictly Single-Family Residential,” he noted. “And the planning commission chose to remove boarding houses from all residential districts.”
In response to a question by Alderman Karl Chambless, Pate acknowledged that a “bed and breakfast” is still a permitted use in B-1, Neighborhood Business, districts.
“It is an oddity,” he said, “and it was for a general area that probably won’t be repeated anywhere else. But there are still bed-and-breakfast operations available.”
Pate noted that it will actually be for “non-conforming” residential uses in B-1 districts.
Morris asked whether there is a way that the board can notify a landlord if his tenants are not “acting properly” within the community.
“We have a lot of rental properties in subdivisions,” he said, “and we’re getting more calls to the police. There are several properties I know personally that the police have gone out to, and the landlord never knows what’s going on with his tenants.”
Town Attorney Richard Myers said there was some discussion “a while ago” about how to at least establish a “registry” of property owners. So, if the property was subsequently occupied by a tenant, and there was an “issue” about too much vegetation or trash, the town could notify the owner to get it cleaned up.
Myers said the board could probably pass an ordinance stating that, if an owner is going to rent his house, he must notify the town about his new mailing address. So, if any sort of “emergency” or “notice” issue ever arose about creation of a “nuisance” on the property, the town and its officials would know who to notify.
He said that same information could also be “triggered” if there was a continuing problem with creating a “noise hazard.”
When Myers asked whether the amending ordinance will prohibit an owner from renting his house, Pate said it defines a boarding house as a building with three rooms for rent.
He noted that, under the original ordinance, an owner who met the “criteria” and got approval from the BZA could open a boarding house in any residential district in Oakland.
In response to another question by Myers, Pate said the amending ordinance will “remove that option.”
Alderman Karl Chambless asked about individuals who are not renting but are “just staying there.”
“Then, it’s not a business situation,” Pate concluded. “That’s more of a family, private matter.”