Planning and Zoning Pushes Forward with Long-term Plan for Short-term Rentals

If the plan is approved by Council, In the downtown area, short-term rentals would be permitted outright, whereas in other areas, they would require special use permits (photo S Jason Cole).

The Excelsior Springs Planning and Zoning Commission pushed forward with a plan to expand the community’s short-term rental (STR) options. This initiative, which falls under the City’s broader Code Review Process, reflects efforts to foster tourism while maintaining the distinctive character of the city’s neighborhoods.

The latest application at the December 19th meeting proposed amendments to Chapter 400.230 of the Zoning Regulations, which govern Special Use Permits for short-term rental properties. This move comes after the Commission engaged in multiple study sessions to explore the potential of more formal land use or density regulations for STRs. The Commission’s discussions focused on balancing the need for streamlined approval processes while ensuring minimal impact on residential areas.

Fundamental elements of the proposal include:

  • Simplifying the review and licensing process for STRs.
  • Implementing more lenient standards in key tourist areas, particularly downtown.
  • Establishing clear site and operational standards to mitigate potential neighborhood impacts.

The new framework categorizes STRs as rental businesses, allowing them in residential units across all zoning districts, subject to the issuance of a Special Use Permit (SUP). The proposal suggests distinct approaches for STRs within and outside the Downtown Tourist Area. In the downtown area, STRs are permitted outright, whereas in other areas, they require SUP consideration.

A unique aspect of the proposal is the emphasis on community integration. The plan mandates that all STRs meet specific site standards, such as sufficient off-street parking (with a minimum of two spaces for up to three bedrooms and an additional space for each additional bedroom), occupancy limits (two adult guests per bedroom), and mandatory biennial city rental inspections. Furthermore, the proposal introduces a safeguard against disturbances by stipulating that STR business licenses or SUPs can be revoked if the property receives three or more City Code citations related to property maintenance or disturbances within a year.

In a statement, Doug Hermes, the Planning Consultant for the City of Excelsior Springs, highlighted that these regulations aim to “meet community expectations and maintain the charm of our neighborhoods while also welcoming visitors to experience our city uniquely.”

Only one person spoke against the new plan. City Councilman Reggie St. John, whose neighborhood has been negatively impacted by short-term rentals, said that he felt there needed to be stiffer regulations on the number of short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods throughout the city. He stated, “This is an ordinance that will come before Council, and I’ll let you know right now I will not be able to support this ordinance as it stands… If we can have some kind of density application that applies to it, that would make it a whole lot more palatable.”

Zoning Commission’s recommendation for approval of the application underscores an effort to balance the growth of a vibrant, tourist-friendly environment with the preservation of neighborhood integrity and local community values.

As Excelsior Springs embarks on this new chapter in urban development, the eyes of residents and potential visitors are keenly set on how these changes will reshape the city’s landscape and contribute to its evolving narrative as a destination that harmoniously blends tradition and modernity. The plan will go before a vote of the City Council at the meeting on January 2.

A map included in the proposal shows some of the districts in downtown (agenda docs).

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