Vacation rentals back before council

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SANDPOINT — When revisions to the city's vacation rental ordinance were approved on Oct. 18, council members said it is an issue they would likely need to revisit.

They were not wrong as less than a month later, it was back on the agenda for Wednesday’s workshop-style council meeting.

"It's a very tricky issue that every city in the world is battling with right now,' said Aaron Qualls, planning and economic development director. "I'm not sure I can safely say that any one city has it figured out."

The first public hearing took place in June, shortly after House Bill 216 was signed into law. The bill goes into effect Jan. 1. The public hearing was tabled across an additional four meetings following discussions of the 300-foot buffer and other issues, including concerns by residents of Westwood Village regarding its designation as a resort community. Many of the details were worked out during those hearings and council members approved several proposed changes to the ordinance in October.

Wednesday's workshop addressed issues of enforcement and the 300-foot buffer.

For the enforcement issue, Qualls said additional language is needed to ensure compliance based on advertisement of short-term rentals. Staff proposed language that "an advertisement promoting the availability of short-term rental property in violation of City Code is prima facie evidence of a violation and may be grounds for denial, suppression or revocation of a license."

The other issue, in regards to the buffer, comes from the direction of city administration to provide a waitlist service for properties within the 300-foot buffer of an existing short-term rental. This presents two challenges, Qualls said. First, another buffer may emerge from a property that could further limit the waitlisted property. Also, during the application window, the city would need to put a hold on any other vacation rental permits in the area so the waitlisted properties remain unaffected during the application window. 

Short-term rentals fall under three tiers. "Tier 1" includes host-occupied rentals, where a homeowner or primary resident rents out rooms while present. "Tier 2" rentals include occasional short-term rentals, where the whole unit is rented out, but the homeowner is the primary resident occupying the unit for the majority of the year. "Tier 3" includes dedicated rentals, which are rented out exclusively on a short-term basis.

One option discussed during the workshop would be to eliminate the buffer and allow "Tier 1" and "Tier 2" short-term rentals outright with a permit, while also placing a cap on the number of "Tier 3" rentals based on a zone. The option would limit "Tier 3" rentals to one per block or street segment. Specific standards for multi-family developments and accessory dwelling units would apply. A waitlist would also be administered, but must be eligible based on dispersion requirement by block or street segment. Another option would be similar, except to place a cap on the number of "Tier 2" rentals per zone and limiting then to one per block or street segment.

The workshop was scheduled to last one hour, so after an in-depth discussion, council was unable to give specific direction to staff regarding any one option. City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton said staff will bring back a proposal to council in January after considering the different options.

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

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