Utica overhauls ordinance on vacation rentals

Moratorium on new rentals to be lifted in January

A new sign reads North Utica Village Hall and Community Center in Utica on Wednesday Nov. 9, 2021. The Village purchased the former Waltham South School building last year and converted it into offices, meeting rooms and a community center. The building is about ninety percent complete and will be open officially at the beginning of 2022.

Utica’s moratorium on vacation rentals is coming to an end. The village has spruced up its ordinance and soon will field requests for new bed and breakfasts, for example.

Thursday, the Utica Village Board adopted an overhaul of the ordinance, which was sufficiently outdated that the board had to purge rules governing boardinghouses and lodging houses.

“It’s really a cleanup proposal,” said Herb Klein, village attorney, who nonetheless credited village staff for a painstaking, line-by-line review of multiple ordinances.

The major changes include:

  • Proprietors now must carry at least $1 million in insurance
  • The village now has the authority to boost the hotel-motel tax (the pillow tax) set at 5%

One thing that hasn’t changed is a limitation on where a vacation rental unit can be located. The ordinance restricts these to the commercial districts – the historic district, generally south of U.S. 6 to the Illinois River Bridge, and north of U.S. 6 – and to rural areas on properties 5 acres or larger.

There, Planning Commissioner Mike Brown encouraged the village to stay vigilant, saying they needed to preserve the “integrity” of the residential areas.

There were no objections or comments from the public. The Planning Commission recommended adoption with only minor edits and the Village Board voted unanimously to adopt it. The moratorium is expected to be lifted at the January meeting.

In another item, Mayor David Stewart announced the resignation of Dennis Hamilton from the Planning Commission. Hamilton advised the mayor he plans to dedicate more time to the Utica Fire Protection District and to travel.

In other matters, the village board:

  • Approved an amended agreement with H.R. Green, Inc. for services on the wastewater treatment plant permit application ($16,500)
  • Agreed to pay $8,000, or half the payment, to ARC Pyrotechnics for the Independence Day fireworks show on July 1, 2023
  • Is seeking after-hours contact information from all business owners, mindful of past village emergencies