The city of Worthington has tightened its code prohibiting "tourist homes" amid the increasing popularity of Airbnbs and a challenge from a couple in the Colonial Hills neighborhood.

Worthington City Council on May 18 voted unanimously in favor of the zoning-code change.

Worthington does not permit tourist homes, or short-term rentals, Lee Brown, director of planning and building for Worthington, wrote in a memo to council.

Brown said the code was updated in two key areas: the definitions of "tourist home" and "dwelling unit."

The updated code designates a tourist home as "a building other than a hotel where lodging is provided and offered to the public for compensation for not more than 15 individuals and open to transient guests. Transient guests means a person or persons renting, using or occupying a dwelling or living accommodation for a period of 30 consecutive calendar days or less."

Before the new language was adopted, a tourist home was "a building other than a hotel where lodging is provided and offered to the public for compensation for not more than 15 individuals and open to transient guests."

Meanwhile, a "dwelling unit" now is defined as "one room or rooms connected together, constituting a separate, independent housekeeping establishment for owner occupancy or rental or lease on a monthly or longer basis, and physically separated from any other rooms or dwelling units which may be in the same structure and containing independent cooking and sleeping facilities."

The previous definition included "weekly" with the "monthly" and "longer basis" time elements.

"We also noticed a conflict in the definition of dwelling unit in the definition section of the planning and zoning code that referenced rental or lease on a weekly, monthly or longer basis," Brown wrote in the memo to council. "Staff believes that the reference to weekly is confusing and conflicting with other sections of the planning and zoning code."

Worthington has had "several recent issues with properties being used as short-term rentals where there has been a high turnover of guests that has disrupted a typically quiet neighborhood," according to Brown's memo.

Brown told council members that over six years, about 12 properties were posted on Airbnb and other short-term-rental websites.

"Nine times out of 10, once we have the conversation with the property owner, give them time to correct the issue, they come into compliance," he said.

One in particular involved a property at 142 Park Blvd. owned by Tom Huff and Jacqueline Gargus, who had challenged the city's statutory prohibition on Airbnbs earlier this year. The couple still rent out their house for 30 days at a time, which is permitted by code.

Huff said he and his wife are not immediately planning to pursue the issue further.

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary