Ennis Town Commission monthly meeting recap
Short-term rentals, ambulance transition on the docket
After months of virtual-only public invites to their monthly meetings the Ennis Town Commission is now back to public in-person sessions. The commission will continue to offer their gatherings virtually, as well as posting them to YouTube. Here is the run-down on their latest meeting held April 8.
Business license: Discussion of Short-Term Rentals Commissioner
Lisa Roberts explained that short-term rentals are required to be licensed with the Montana Department of Revenue. Counties are responsible for the administration and inspection of those licenses.
If the Town of Ennis wanted to have its own short-term business license, it could come up with supplementary requirements as part of its business license application process, potentially requiring proof of the state short-term license.
Roberts said that these types of rentals can be contentious, so she wanted to get the discussion flowing once more regarding licensing requirements.
“Because right now, they’re not licensed at all,” she said. By requiring licensing from the town it would provide a better picture of how many vacation rentals exist in Ennis, since that exact number is currently unknown.
Roberts said she spoke with Park County regarding their experiences in identifying short-term rentals – one possibility was inventorying listings on platforms like VRBO. If Ennis had a required short-term business license, that permit number would be required on the listing along with the address. If the license number isn’t there, the property would likely be unlicensed.
“I think it helps level the playing ground because we have a lot of businesses, the hotels, that they’re in direct competition with,” said Roberts. “Hotels are held to a really high standard, and then there’s no regulations on the short-term rentals. So, bringing them all to the same standard, in my mind would be a really good thing, and really fair and just.”
The town would need to restructure how its business licenses look, as they haven’t been updated in many years. Roberts used West Yellowstone’s business license as an example, highlighting how a basic license is then separated out by category.
Commissioner John Bancroft noted Ennis Mayor Blake Leavitt’s position (Leavitt was not in attendance at the meeting) of not doing anything with business license rates at this time, given the hardship they’ve endured due to the pandemic. Roberts agreed, stating that now would be a good time to look at the structures rather than the fees.
Commissioner Kristy Ranson stated that the current annual fees are far behind at the current rate of $25 for a business. Future fee changes would be set by resolution and would require two public hearings. They are not currently set by resolution.
“Obviously we are a tourist economy, and short-term rentals play into our economy and the success of our downtown businesses,” said Roberts. “They do have a place in our economy, but it would just be nice to at least inventory them and see how many we have, and what kind of impact that is having on our housing situation.”
Nothing was decided at the meeting, but the commission plans do more research and to have the town attorney assist in the process.
Pollinator Gardens: Schedule of Establishment/Dave Laufenberg
Following last month’s approval Madison Conservation District Conservation Programs Manager Dave Laufenberg returned to the commission to finalize plans to bring pollinator gardens to the town’s grounds.
Three locations were chosen: the garden behind Ennis Town Hall, the large roundabout near the entrance of the North 40 neighborhood and Lions Club Park.
With the OK in hand from the commission and other stakeholders the MCD and a small crew from the town will prepare and plant the gardens this April and May using seeds provided by the MCD. Once established, from May through September a MCD intern will irrigate and perform weekly maintenance of the three plots and the MCD will provide updates as the project grows.
A cost of about $500 to cover signage and fencing could be covered by the MCD, but the commission said they’d look into possible sources of finding from the town, possibly the parks budget, to cover a portion of the cost.
There may be an opportunity for community members to help out with the gardens.
Scully Amended Plat: Realignment of Common Boundary of 2 Existing Tracts
Commissioner Jason Schroeder spoke regarding this agenda item as the boundary realignment is between his property and a neighbor’s tract. There is already an access easement through Schroeder’s land for the Scullys to get to theirs. The goal was to move the two boundaries so Scully owns the access land. It was already approved by Madison County, and this type of move is not usually sent to the commission for approval, but the wording on a plat map resulted in this “special situation” addition to the agenda. Schroeder noted that he’s all for the two realignments as he’ll technically be gaining more land by not having the easement, and Scully can move forward with his plans, so it was a win-win for both landowners. The commission approved the boundary realignments, with Schroeder abstaining.
Lease for Ambulance Parking at Town Hall
Ennis Town Clerk Ginger Guinn provided the commissioners with a draft year-long lease agreement between the Town of Ennis and Madison Valley Medical Center to allow the MVMC to park its ambulances at the Ennis Town Hall. The rate will be $500 per month, with a requirement to carry renters’ insurance. The cost of utilities would be included in the rate. The lease will be given to MVMC for their attorneys to review. Once they’ve approved the town’s attorney will take a look, and finally Mayor Leavitt will have authority to sign. The medical center is set to take over ambulance service from the town on May 1. The revenue will go into the town’s general fund.
Dissolution of Ambulance Manager Position
May 1 marks the transition of ambulance service from Ennis Ambulance Service to Madison Valley Medical Center. Since the EAS functioned as an umbrella enterprise under the Town of Ennis the commissioners are required to dissolve the position. They did so. MVMC will provide 24-hour ambulance service staffed with EMTs and paramedics. The center also aims to provide advanced life support services in the ambulances.