Fayette panel rejects zoning change for rental of houses

The Planning Commission voted Thursday against amending a zoning ordinance that would have changed the way houses in Fayette County can be rented.

If approved, the minimum time for a house rental would have gone from a week to a month.

The change failed on an 8-1 vote, as some Planning Commission members expressed concern that the amendment infringed on individual property rights. But others said something should be done about a farm in the heart of Thoroughbred horse country where the absentee owners rent out two houses that have become weekend party destinations.

"I don't think this text amendment is the way to go, but there's a problem if we are going to support the agricultural community in Fayette County," said member Marie Copeland.

Razor Cave Farm on Iron Works Pike is advertised on the Internet as a quiet vacation spot, but neighbor Tony Hancock, owner of an adjoining horse farm, said the houses are rented regularly just on weekends for events with a large numbers of guests, loud music, alcohol, and dogs and children running through his field chasing the horses.

The city's professional planning staff recommended approval of the amendment initiated by the Urban County Council, partially in response to the Razor Cave Farm situation, but also to set some limits for the large number of rentals expected during the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.

The city's existing ordinance prohibits renting a house in an agricultural or residential area on a nightly basis, but allows rentals by the week. The proposed amendment said houses had to be rented monthly, with four exceptions. Four times during the year, a house could be rented from one week to a month.

Dick Murphy, attorney for Jackson, said his client rented only by the week, and that the house was rented only 20 percent of the time. Murphy characterized the situation as "a dispute between neighbors." An ordinance that applied countywide would be an overreaction, he said.

"It's a difficult situation, but it seems we have a commercial property existing in an ag zone," member Joan Whitman said. "I don't know what the solution is, but I can understand Mr. Hancock's concern with his business."

Paul Bracken, who owns a house on South Upper Street that he rents on a weekly basis as a vacation house, suggested that the city develop a licensing process to regulate vacation rental houses. That suggestion comes as the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games are approaching and locals are indicating interest in renting out their houses.

The zone text amendment will now go back to council for a final decision.