Houses are seen in Seward, Alaska on Thursday, April 15, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Houses are seen in Seward, Alaska on Thursday, April 15, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Seward delays action on short-term rental regs

The limits are meant to ameliorate the city’s housing shortage

The Seward City Council voted Monday to postpone approval of limits on short-term rentals. Those limits, proposed by the Seward Planning and Zoning Commission, are meant to ameliorate the city’s housing shortage.

The legislation considered by council members Monday would prohibit new use of entire houses as rentals in residential zones, require short-term rental insurance and implement fees associated with individual short-term rental units.

Properties that have historically operated as short-term rentals could continue to do so, and they could also be sold as a short-term rental property. However, if that property stops being a short-term rental, it will be considered non-conforming and could not go back to being a short-term rental.

Whole-house rentals would be allowed in commercial zones if in a multi-family structure, and traditional bed-and-breakfast establishments would be allowed in residential zones, with limits.

Amendments proposed to the ordinance included adding language specific to city districts that are “principally commercial.” Some who testified before the council on Monday, however, were concerned about additional limits being placed on properties in commercial zones.

Doug Schoessler, who serves as Seward’s public works director but said he was speaking in an individual capacity, told council members that existing property owners have expectations when it comes to what they can and cannot do with their parcels. Schoessler said he lives in an auto/commercial district, which allows him to run several businesses off the parcel, if he wants to.

“I paid a pretty premium price for that property and a big part of it was I could do other things rather than just live there,” Schoessler said of his property in an auto/commercial district. “I haven’t developed into different things. I’ve done just a little bit of rentals and I have a long-term rental permit right now, but I look at that as a commercial property. I’m in a commercial zone … It feels like a little overreach to me that I could do this and now, some of it, I can’t.”

Council members ultimately voted to postpone the legislation and to hold a joint special meeting with the city’s planning and zoning commission to further discuss the legislation.

“Personally, I couldn’t vote yes on this tonight,” said Seward Mayor Sue McClure. “I had a lot of input and mostly the concern is the auto/commercial — well, there’s been a lot of concerns so I’m not ready to vote tonight either.”

The legislation comes after four public work sessions held throughout this year by the Seward Planning and Zoning Commission for the purpose of addressing regulations for short-term rentals. The proposed changes to Title 15 of the Seward, Alaska Code of Ordinances, which regulates land use, were approved unanimously by that commission.

“It is a recognized issue in the City of Seward, that the schools, hospital, prison, and other local businesses cannot hire sufficient employees due to the lack of housing available,” a statement from the Seward Planning and Zoning Commission says.

A Tuesday search for “Seward” on Airbnb, a website that lists short-term rentals, returned 343 listings with an average nightly price of $231. Some listings go for as high as $645 per night, as in the case of an oceanfront yurt in Resurrection Bay.

Seward’s efforts to address housing shortages in city limits come as the City of Soldotna also explores new ways to expand housing opportunities. The Soldotna City Council recently approved the use of accessory dwelling units on existing land parcels and will consider limits on the use of those units as short-term rentals next month.

Monday’s meeting of the Seward City Council can be streamed on the City of Seward’s YouTube channel.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

The Homer Spit stretching into Kachemak Bay is seen here on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020 in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Homer woman indicted over seaplane incident

Marian Tillion Beck was indicted on charges of negligent operation of a vessel and attempted interference with the navigation of a sea plane

Soldotna High School can be seen in this Sept. 2, 2021, photo, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion file)
‘Little Sweethearts’ family dance to debut at SoHi

The event will be hosted by SoHi’s freshmen student council

Soldotna City Council members interview city manager applicant Elke Doom (on screen) during a special city council meeting on Monday, Jan. 30, 2023. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Doom, Bower named finalists for Soldotna manager gig

The two will visit Soldotna for in-person meetings on Feb. 7 and 13, respectively

The northern fur seal rescued by Alaska SeaLife Center staff is seen on Jan. 31, 2023, at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Kaiti Grant/Alaska SeaLife Center)
Northern fur seal pup admitted to SeaLife Center rescue program

The pup was reported by Sitka residents using the center’s 24-hour stranding hotline

The Kenai Community Library children’s section is seen on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Literary competition returns to local schools

Battle of the Books aims to instill in kids a love of reading

Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire
Climate activists hold a rally outside the Alaska State Capitol Friday afternoon in advocacy for legislative action to improve Alaska’s renewable energy development and future sustainability.
Climate activists hold rally near the Capitol

Statewide organizations advocate for legislative action

Shanon Davis, the executive director of the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce, hands out candy during the Sweeny’s St. Patrick’s Parade in Soldotna on March 17, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Davis to step down as Soldotna chamber head

Davis oversaw the implementation of Soldotna’s “Holding Our Own,” shop local program

Golden-yellow birch trees and spruce frame a view of Aurora Lagoon and Portlock Glacier from a trail in the Cottonwood-Eastland Unit of Kachemak Bay State Park off East End Road on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021, near Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong)
State parks advisory boards accepting applictions

Alaska State Park advisory boards provide state park managers with recommendations on management issues

Most Read