Mayor Robert Koerber
The guesthouse safety ordinance has been a primary focus of the BOA for several months. Three dedicated meetings were held on Nov. 25, Dec. 9 and Dec. 17, with three more scheduled for Jan. 13, Jan. 27 and Feb 10. The following are ideas from the previous meetings.
The Dec. 17 meeting was a study in local politics. Please watch the YouTube video of that BOA meeting on Hermannmo.com, City Government and you will see government in action. There were only 13 guesthouse and B&B owners present from a total of 131 licensees. One of the Aldermen later said to me, ‘Why don’t more voters show up at these meetings?’ and my response was, ‘they elect us to show up for them. We represent all of the people.’
What is the City hoping to accomplish with the new guest house safety ordinance? The City hopes to mitigate serious current problems such as:
1) A total lack of safety inspections for the 131 lodging establishments that we currently license. For example, when a lodging establishment is inspected by the building inspector and certified for occupancy, the city never goes back inside to look again. If you had a guest house that opened in 2006, you would have been inspected in 2006, but not since that date. Even if the establishment was sold or closed down for a while, there would not have been any subsequent inspections. This is not good for such an important industry, an industry that makes up 11 percent of our gross retail annual sales.
2) There are no basic required safety standards that must be followed by lodging establishments, such as fire extinguishers, smoke or carbon monoxide detectors, exit signs, paths of egress, etc.
3) There is no liability insurance requirement for lodging establishment owners.
4) Currently, there is no process to notify a resident in either R2 or R3 zones that a guesthouse is being planned next door nor is there a meeting opportunity for the current property owners to meet the potential new guesthouse owners. This is why a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) is an important part of this ordinance.
If we ever have a lodging tragedy, we don’t want the headlines in the St. Louis Post Dispatch to read, ‘Tragedy in Hermann guesthouse blaze,’ ‘ . . . surprisingly, the city has no ordinances requiring inspections, liability insurance, fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, exit signs, etc.’ If this happens, the Hermann tourism business will be severely damaged even more so than the duck boat tragedy in Branson.
It has always been a priority that the citizens have a right to speak and be heard. A Conditional Use Permit (CUP), is the city’s way to insure that a meeting will be held for both the potential guesthouse owners and the existing neighbors. Each can ask questions and clarify the intentions of the other. If we don’t have the CUP provision, we will continue to lack an effective method for the current home owners to know ahead of time that a guesthouse is being proposed next to them. At present there is no such process.
I hope this ordinance update has been informative.