GALENA, Ill. — Galena City Council members hope to regulate the spread of vacation rental housing in town.

Council members voted, 6-1, this week to set a limit of 69 vacation rental licenses for downtown properties, while maintaining the current limit of 20 licenses in residential areas.

Council Member Mark McCoy, who did not return phone messages seeking comment for this story, cast the only dissenting vote.

The license system was enacted in 2017 by city officials after they discovered several homeowners were offering up houses for vacation rentals online.

Because Galena attracts a high number of tourists every week, council members said they feel it is important to prevent an excessively high density of vacation rental homes in local neighborhoods.

“A lot of the residents don’t want their neighborhoods to become a bunch of rental units,” said Council Member Pam Bernstein. “We don’t want to overwhelm these neighborhoods.”

City Administrator Mark Moran said the current cap of 20 vacation rental licenses for residential properties already has been reached, while 53 additional properties are on a waiting list for licenses.

Moran said the license requests on the waiting list will only be granted if a current license is relinquished.

But prior to Monday, there was no set limit on the number of vacation rental licenses available to property owners in downtown Galena. Moran said the limit of 69 will accommodate 27 current license-holders, as well as all remaining license requests that have been approved.

Council Member Jerry Westemeier said a limit has been set to prevent issues like congesting parking options and stealing away business from existing hotels and bed and breakfasts.

“When we have it unlimited downtown, it hurts the hotels and bed and breakfasts a bit,” Westemeier said. “There are pros and cons to it, but we don’t want to be harming existing businesses.”

A limit also was set on commercial licenses, although Moran said license requests have been limited. Three licenses have been approved for commercial properties, with a cap of five licenses being approved on Monday.

Bernstein said the new limits set on vacation rental licenses is not set in stone, and will likely be reviewed again after a year.

“We want to see how it goes,” Bernstein said. “If it needs to be changed in the future, we’ll do that.”

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