City Reviews Short-Term Rental Proposal

The Lake Geneva Planning Commission has tethered – at least for now – a proposal that would allow short-term rentals in areas zoned for neighborhood business (NB) and neighborhood office (NO). 

During a meeting on June 19th, the commission voted 6-1 to table the issue, the lone vote of support coming from Sarah Hill. The commission will decide when to revisit this proposal, and, given our leaders’ increased pandering to commercial interests, we wouldn’t be surprised if that happens soon.

The Lake Geneva Regional News recently reported that the city planner, Vandewalle & Associates, recommended the commission consider rewriting the zoning ordinances after receiving a request to allow the owner of a residence on Center Street to rent his property to tourists. Several other property owners followed with their own requests for short-term vacation rentals in single-family homes zoned NB or NO.

Short-term rentals (less than 30 days) are currently allowed in Lake Geneva – but only with a conditional use permit and only in business-zoned areas. The proposed zoning ordinance change would allow small-scale short-term rentals in the NB and NO zones, but, as the Lake Geneva Regional News reports, it would still prohibit large-scale hotels and motels from locating there.

That last part is important because residences can be transformed into temporary hotels through rental services like Airbnb, which allows people to rent out their house/apartment/room at a rate usually cheaper than a hotel. The City of Lake Geneva has made plans to negotiate a room tax with Airbnb (there currently is none), so the city can at least get some monetary benefit and so the playing field is leveled for owners of bed and breakfasts and other lodging in the city.

Residentially zoned areas don’t allow short-term rentals, unless it’s a bed and breakfast, and we see this is for good reason: a resident should be on site to ensure the renters are being respectful of the property and their neighbors.

Here at Care for Lake Geneva, we share the concern of many residents about this proposal:

  • This is simply another form of commercialization of Lake Geneva;
  • New zoning could encourage “party houses” in our community, leaving property damaged and neighbors disturbed;
  • Parking could become a bigger issue, as renters park on private property.
  • Short-term renters don’t feel the same responsibility to neighbors or the community as a whole like residents do;
  • At this time, there’s no monetary value for the city.

And the central concern to it all is this: The re-zone requires a change to the City of Lake Geneva Comprehensive Plan, which was written to prevent commercial interests from overpowering our lakeside communities.

Is this proposal in the best interest of our community? Or will it benefit a select few while impacting neighbors?

How will this impact existing hotels?

If the city successfully negotiates a room tax deal with Airbnb, how much will the city get? Is it worth the trouble? 

We will monitor both the re-zone proposal and the room tax issues and will provide updates as soon as we hear them.

In the meantime, you can take action now! Tell the Lake Geneva Planning Commission to prioritize residents’ concerns over commercial interests by voting no on the short-term rental re-zone proposal.

Click here to sign the petition that we will deliver to the commission.

We also encourage you to contact the Mayor of Lake Geneva directly and tell him your concerns over the proposal:

Al Kupsik (Mayor) - / 262-749-0842



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