Lebanon committee debates vacation rental safety

By Angela Simmons

LEBANON – The Lebanon ordinance committee revisited the hot topic of rental properties within city limits. 

According to aldermen, being located near tourist destinations, a shopping district and a major university makes Lebanon a sought after location. Committee Chairman Al Gerdes said he worries about visitors’ safety, and wants to be sure the locations are safe, but hasn’t yet found a way to do so. 

“This has been quite an experience getting educated on this. I’m concerned about the enforcement possibilities of this. These things are popping up everywhere. This all started with Air BnB, but as I look into it, I’ve found at least a dozen different sites that present people with options in the area they want to go to. The hard part is keeping track of who is putting their bedroom up, or their house. How are we going to find them? How are we going to know what’s out there? How are we going to keep it enforced? Number one is who is going to enforce it, and how can we get those in place to come in,” he asked his fellow committee members.  

He said he had checked with nearby communities and was told that even with a dedicated person, the process to verify and license the homes was “a pain.”

Committee member and Alderwoman Cheri Wright said she would like to see commercial inspections and registration with the city for business licenses, or letters would need to be sent out that the property owner had so many days to comply. 

“As far as who would be enforcing it, I think every alderman has a bit of time to look online and find some information. The new people being elected would be able to look also. We are all aldermen here for the city. You have to do some things. You don’t just come in on Monday nights for meetings a couple times a month,” she said.

The committee also determined that they wished to not establish further ordinances that would upgrade standards for building materials until the council knows what will happen with the possible code enforcement position.

Gerdes also reported on at grandfathering clauses for older buildings to adhere to current International Building Code (IBC) standards. Both neighboring O’Fallon and Belleville told Gerdes that their towns did not have grandfathering clauses for structures existing prior to the adoption or creation of the IBC standards. City Attorney John Long was not present, but Gerdes said he had also consulted with Long and the attorney had not found any such clauses. 

 Issues surfaced recently regarding some mobile home lots owned by Ron Trame, who was in attendance at the meeting. City Attorney John Long was not present, but Gerdes said he had also consulted with Long and the attorney had not found any such clauses. Trame thanked Gerdes for his research, and said that he had found that historical homes were eligible for grandfathering because of their status. 

The final discussion topic from the committee was the desire of the Lebanon Planning Commission to change some of the verbiage of special use permit ordinances. The City of Lebanon codified their ordinances with the state of Illinois and posted them to their website in March of 2018, and Gerdes says that the current writing is per Illinois state law. Gerdes said “We can change the lists, but to give permission carte blanche…. Yes the system is cumbersome, but it’s the way the state and appellate courts have said it should be.”

In Other News:

• Trame also discussed lack of enforcement regarded derelict automobiles, and stated he felt he was being given “the run around” in trying to report one particular vehicle that had sat for years. 

• Wright, the chairwoman of the cemetery committee, discussed changing the guidelines to allow for Sunday or holiday burial. The issue came to light after a recent burial request. 

“We do have to honor Sunday and holiday burial, according to the state, due to religion,” Wright reported. Current Lebanon ordinance does not allow for the burials that are allowed in the state statute 820 ILCS 135, the Burial Rights Act. The statute states that various religious sects may require burial within a certain time frame of the death, and that may “necessitate Sunday or holiday burials.”

To make the change to allow for the different burial dates, the city will adjust their fee scale to pay essential cemetery workers. When questioned if the discrepancy was missed during the ordinance codification, Gerdes said “It’s possible.”

• “This has been going on way too long,” Alderman Landall Mack said, discussing flooding at Roger Drive and Merrill Street. 

Alderman Frank Almeter said he would like to see the item moved from “Unfinished business” on city agendas to an “open action item” to encourage city officials to take action and close it out one way or another. 

At the last city council meeting, Mayor Rich Wilken said he would have Mark Rujawitz of Rhutasel and Associates, Inc. come present to the council about his engineer survey findings. Almeter reported that he knew Wilken had contacted Rujawitz about the presentation, and while there was hope it would happen at the January 28 council meeting, drawings for the project had not yet been completed.