These days guest rentals in Cody are likely to have functioning smoke detectors in place among other safety features.
That’s because in recent years, the City of Cody has adopted zoning laws for short-term rentals – first for residential zones in early 2017 and then for commercial zones the spring of 2018.
City ordinance defines short-term rental as a living space leased for fewer than 30 consecutive days. This includes bed and breakfast inns.
The new city law requires short-term rental and B&B operators to register with the community development office in City Hall. Because meals are served, B&Bs are also overseen by the Wyoming Department of Agriculture.
Registered guest rentals undergo inspections to ensure the property meets fire and safety requirements, which include working smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and carbon monoxide alarms plus egress window access to each sleeping area. If the rental doesn’t pass an inspection, the owner has to correct safety issues before the city issues a certificate indicating they may rent the space.
In addition to addressing guest safety, registration helps the city make sure rentals are appropriate for the zone.
The new law restricts each booking to single groups limited to 10 people and addresses issues such as parking, owner occupancy, lodging-tax collection and insurance.
There is a $25 application fee per address for a three-year registration. A $10 per address renewal fee is assessed during the two off-years to help the city track rental activity.
According to city planner Todd Stowell, the city has 36 units in its commercial zones and 63 in residential zones.
“A few of those have compliance-registration issues,” he said. “But we are nearing 100 percent compliance.”
The city implemented residential regulations as part of a larger residential zoning overhaul.
Proposed changes were shared with the community through a series of neighborhood public meetings led by Stowell and city planning and zoning board members. During those discussions in later 2016, proposed standards for guest rentals received considerable attention.
After revising the proposed ordinance based on public input, the P&Z recommended the council adopt changes to the residential zoning law, including new short-term rental standards. The amended ordinances were passed by unanimous vote on Feb. 7, 2017. But when the next two readings were presented, councilmen Landon Greer and Glenn Nielson voted no.
Greer objected to requiring the property owner live in the rented dwelling or next door and opposed making people register and pay a fee, arguing short-term lessors already sign up with the State Department of Revenue and collect taxes.
Nielson said he was concerned about overextending government oversight and over-regulation.
At the March 7, 2017, third ordinance readings, a motion to remove the short-term rental registration and inspection from the ordinance failed. The ordinance was adopted with a final 5-2 vote.
About one year later the city adopted short-term rental standards for commercial zones.
As with the residential process, proposed rules were first vetted by P&Z.
For the most part, the residential rules were applied to property in the city’s limited business (D-1), general business (D-2) and open business-light industrial (D-3) zones. One difference is the owner-occupancy rule required of residential rentals does not hold for commercial property.