County mulls vacation rental permits

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(Photo courtesy) This treehouse overlooking Lake Pend Oreille is offered for rent on the Airbnb website.

SANDPOINT — Bonner County is developing an ordinance to regulate vacation rentals.

“The reason for vacation rental ordinance in the first place is try and maintain the residential character of neighborhoods,” said Bonner County Planning Director Milton Ollerton.

The Bonner County Planning & Zoning Commission took up the proposed ordinance last week, resulting in a dozen recommendations.

Topping the list is a requirement that vacation rentals secure permit from the county on an annual basis.

Bonner County’s land use codes already address vacation rentals, although Ollerton said there is nothing that triggers a permit.

“A permit was the easiest way to go about it, which is similar to what other counties and cities have done,” Ollerton said.

Other suggestions include limiting the number of permits and increasing them based on the number of new building location permits, establishing occupancy limits for structures and certified building and fire inspections. Those offering rentals could also be made to provide proof of insurance, ensure there’s enough parking and notify neighbors with a 300-foot radius.

Those offering rentals may have to secure special or conditional use permits for larger events such as weddings. There also could be a process to address violations and impose penalties for scofflaws.

Ollerton said complaints from neighbors of a vacation rental also influenced the county to develop an ordinance to regulate them.

“I am trying to open up this conversation and to get as much input as we can,” Ollerton said. “We want to have the big conversations up front, not later.”

Ollerton added that he expects to conduct informational meetings about the proposed ordinance.

“We’ll probably go out and do some meetings around the county to talk about this specific ordinance and then we’ll go back to the Planning & Zoning Commission and see if we can’t come up with a recommendation to take to the board,” Ollerton said.

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