The Pullman Planning Commission on Wednesday heard voices of support from the public for more flexible zoning rules for Airbnbs and other similar short-term rentals.
It also heard nearly unanimous support for a regulation change allowing more residences to have hens as pets in city limits.
In both cases, the commission agreed it would be open to pursuing potential changes in the city’s regulations.
The city began taking a closer look at Airbnbs in response to a complaint that forced two Pullman residents to sell a home they were renting out through Airbnb and VRBO in an R2 residential zone late last year.
The city informed them their R2 residential zoning classification only allowed them to operate a traditional bed and breakfast establishment, which requires them to live in the house.
According to a memo from Pullman Planning Director Pete Dickinson to the Pullman Planning Commission, city and legal staff have reviewed the code during the past few weeks and found the land use category of “rooming and boarding house” could be construed to include short-term rentals, which does not require the owner to live there.
Audience members spoke in support of allowing Airbnbs in Pullman, including in R1 residential areas. They cited it provides valuable lodging for busy weekends, such as Washington State University football weekends. It can also provide much-needed extra income for the owner and cheaper options for those who cannot afford to stay in a hotel.
One woman expressed that an influx of Airbnbs and other similar rentals could hurt Pullman’s housing market, as rental properties are already prevalent in Pullman.
The commission said if the city wants to pursue allowing these type of short-term rentals in other zones, it should initiate that process quickly.
The commission initiated plans for a subcommittee to review regulations regarding fowl in the city limits.
A Pullman family requested the city change its rules after they discovered their 3,010-square-foot lot on Professional Mall Boulevard is not large enough to have chickens, according to city rules.
Kevin Lassiter, a 17-year-old Pullman High School student and 4-H member, used to own three chickens at the property.
Current city zoning code states that for homes to have fowl on the property, they need a lot size of at least 10,000 square feet and a minimum of 2,000 square feet of land per animal.
Lassiter and several others Tuesday expressed their support for changing these rules. They said the city should not have more restrictive laws for hens than it does for dogs, as hens are much smaller, easier to handle and usually quieter than dogs.
Lassiter said larger cities have less restrictive rules regarding hens, including Seattle, which allows up to eight hens in any lot.
Aletha Lassiter, Kevin’s mother, said students in FFA are at a disadvantage if they cannot live close to the animals they raise.
A representative from WSU voiced concerns about chickens being allowed on College Hill for fear of theft, property damage and loose chickens.
Anthony Kuipers can be reached at (208) 883-4640, or by email email@example.com.