Vacation rental discussion revisited

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(File photo by MARY MALONE) Sandpoint City Council approved a revisions to the vacation rental ordinance last week.

SANDPOINT — The vacation rental discussion has dominated several City Council meetings since June, and last week, council members approved several changes to the ordinance. Council also agreed it would likely not be the last time they will see the ordinance.

"I think this will turn into parking, where we will have to revisit this many times before we get it all sussed out," said Councilwoman Deb Ruehle.

The first hearing on June 21, shortly after House Bill 216 was signed into law limiting the city's ability to restrict vacation rentals, was continued to July 19. Qualls wanted to be sure the legal implications were understood before any changes were made to the ordinance. Because there is no rush to update the ordinance, since HB 216 goes into effect Jan. 1, the hearing was again tabled at that time. Last month, an in-depth discussion about Westwood Village and its label as a resort community led council to, again, table the discussion.

Four of the 79 units in the village are permitted vacation rentals with many of the residents full-time. The concern regarding the resort community designation, according to letters and public comment by Westwood residents, was that all of the units could be turned into vacation rentals if the residents chose to do so. While some stated they would like some allowance for the people who already rent out their homes, or the possibility to add a few more vacation rentals, others wanted some regulation — homeowners associations are not allowed, by state law, to determine length of stay.

"Whatever we do may affect other developments on the water, of 10 units or more, that want more vacation rentals," said Aaron Qualls, city planning and economic development director.

To address the concerns, Qualls said planning staff "essentially" removed the resort community designation, but the standards are still there. Such standards include adjoining waterfront and a minimum of 10 units. Also, in residential areas, vacation rentals are subject to a 300-foot buffer. An option put before council was to include in the ordinance a standard that developments located more than a quarter mile from the downtown core, on the water, of 10 units or more will not have to adhere to the buffer requirement, but will be limited to one vacation rental per 10 units.

The main motion to approve all proposed revisions to the ordinance was approved unanimously.

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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