Vacation rentals now legal in Shawano

City requiring two-year license, application for owners to provide short-term lodging
Lee Pulaski
City Editor

Property owners publicizing their property in Shawano on Airbnb and Vrbo as vacation rentals can now do so legally after the Shawano Common Council voted unanimously Sept. 13 to permit it.

All the owners have to do is fill out an application and pay $200 for a two-year license per property as a new ordinance allows the practice in residential zones and takes away the process of a conditional use permit for mixed-use zones.

The proposed vacation rental home policy notes that bed-and-breakfast businesses, commercial indoor lodging and boarding houses are not part of the land use category. Vacation rentals are not permitted in mobile home or business zones, along with zones for public lands.

“We had discussed this for a couple of months with the plan commission,” said Dave Moesch, the city’s zoning administrator. “Currently, state law allows for cities to regulate between seven and 28 days, but people were already doing Vrbo renting homes within the city for less than that, so we had to come up with some specifics for that.”

The new policy will be a good thing for tourism, according to Moesch, as the city is trying to brand itself as a tourist destination for more than the nature crowd with activities happening in the city parks and the new Naberhood Plaza.

The fee is fair, Moesch noted, as Green Bay and Ashwaubenon charge $500 annually for each vacation rental, and De Pere charges $250 per year. With the city of Shawano’s policy, the expense is $100 per year per property, so if someone has three homes to serve as vacation rentals, the owner would pay for three licenses.

“We thought that was very reasonable and adequate for that, as long as they abide with the code and come up with the fee and the state license and the city license,” Moesch said.

Alderwoman Sandy Steinke agreed the price was fair, especially because the license is per property and not per owner.

“If they have three Airbnbs, they will pay $600,” Steinke said.

Moesch pointed out that the city got wind of vacation rentals popping up when the city was getting additional room tax that couldn’t be attributed to a specific hotel or lodging. He said he was getting calls recently about setting up vacation rentals, but at the time, there was no specific policy on them, aside from the conditional use permits for mixed-use zones.

City Administrator Eddie Sheppard noted that vacation rentals are being discussed at many different places, with some like Shawano looking to implement minimal regulations while other municipalities are in the hot seat for their policies being too restrictive.

“It’s a hot topic around different areas,” Sheppard said. “In places that are encouraging tourism, they’re usually allowing it. In places that maybe they don’t want that, they’re outlawing it. It’s already been happening (in Shawano). We haven’t had any issues, and this gives us a license so we can monitor, and make sure that, if there’s issues with noise and other things, we can deal with them as they come.”