Council tables bed-and-bath recommendation to gain information

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

The Pawhuska City Council on June 8 decided to table action on a recommendation from the municipal Board of Adjustments/Planning Commission regarding bed-and-bath operations in areas zoned for residential use.

The Board of Adjustments/Planning Commission had voted, 3-1, in favor of defining bed-and-bath operations as a permitted use in both Residential General areas and Residential Single Family areas. Bill Todd, who chairs the Board of Adjustments/Planning Commission, voted against the recommendation. Panel members Alan Brown, Cody Garnett and Stuart Tolson voted in favor.

There are already bed-and-bath operations in residential areas of Pawhuska, but the recommendation submitted to the City Council would have formally defined those operations as accepted uses.

Municipal code enforcement officer Steve Hughes argued June 8 that the council should not approve bed-and-bath operations as an acceptable use in the more-restricted single-family residential areas. Hughes acknowledged that Pawhuska needs more lodging, but said that the city has been violating its own ordinances by allowing commercial businesses in residential neighborhoods.

Interim Police Chief Lorrie Hennesy took part in the discussion, noting that the major type of complaint she receives in regard to bed-and-bath operations in residential areas concerns parking problems.

Kelly Bland, the city's new economic development director, said she thinks city government should use codes to provide for safety, but not to attempt  to limit what people can do with their property. Bland said there is investor interest in the use of property in Pawhuska for bed-and-baths.

At-Large City Councilor Steve Tolson, pointing out that the people serving on the Board of Adjustments/Planning Commission are the ones the city has tasked with evaluating these issues, made a motion to accept the recommendation.

Hughes asked if that meant Tolson was proposing to accept the recommendation with no provision for inspections and permits.

Mayor Roger Taylor asked if there should, perhaps, be an amendment to the recommendation from the Board of Adjustments/Planning Commission.

In the discussion that followed, Hughes said that city government "doesn't even know who owns" some bed-and-baths, and he advocated for a registry of owners. Hughes said a bed-and-bath owner sits on the Board of Adjustments/Planning Commission and voted in favor of the recommendation that was placed on the council's agenda.

What Hughes did not mention was that Tolson, who moved for approval, is the father of one of the Board of Adjustments/Planning Commission members who voted in favor of the recommendation.

Attempts to regulate or tax the fast-growing bed-and-bath sector of Pawhuska's economy have been provocative since at least April 2019, when numerous bed-and-bath owners and investors attended a meeting of the Board of Adjustments/Planning Commission and gave board members a talking-to about intrusive government regulation.

The discussion June 8 appeared to mark a continuation of the struggle between those who think bed-and-baths should be regulated and those who find the prospect of regulation disturbing.