Guest column: El Dorado County needs VHR moratorium now (opinion)
We can always count on El Dorado County supervisors Sue Novasel or Michael Ranalli starting off each vacation home rental (VHR) public meeting with the reminder that VHRs are an allowed use for single-family dwellings under the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s land use ordinances.
They have attempted to make us believe the word of God (TRPA) has set this in stone, and that we should all now work together to allow these nuisance businesses to coexist in our neighborhoods.
Not so fast! While TRPA is a land use agency, it does not have the right to dictate the use of non-compatible lodging business in residentially zoned neighborhoods. Its allowed use of VHRs truly violates the true meaning and intent of single-family dwelling and R1 zoning.
There was always, and still is, a reason for keeping residential neighborhoods genuinely residential. Families will always need the character of genuine neighborhoods to raise their children safely and enjoy peaceful living in an atmosphere of relationships with neighbors. VHRs destroy that very neighborhood character.
TRPA’s description of “allowed use” under its code of land use ordinances describes this use specifically as “Vacation Home Rentals are allowed providing they meet the Local Government Neighborhood Compatibility Requirements.”
Upon investigation, this TRPA land use language means that the County of El Dorado Planning Department should literally have a research document in place called “Neighborhood Compatibility Requirements.” This is a researched document that describes all the possible negative impacts that any “special use permitted business” inflicts upon residential or mixed-use zoned areas.
These negative impacts are noise, nuisance, parking, traffic and any other impact that would negatively change the character of a neighborhood. Any responsible city or community that allows “special use permits” for limited businesses in residential-zoned neighborhoods has this document in place before allowing any special use permitting.
Our county of El Dorado has absolutely no such document in place — making TRPA’s specific language for “allowed use” for VHRs illegitimate!
TRPA’s allowed use of VHRs in R1 single-family neighborhoods should be challenged in court.
Now let’s talk about VHRs in general. These properties are massively advertised as lodging facilities through networks like VRBO, Airbnb, TurnKey Rentals, etc. Vacation home rentals are issued a business license from the county. They also pay a business “Transient Occupancy Tax” just like a hotel.
Voila! Guess what? They definitely ARE a BUSINESS! And they are definitely NOT a “single-family dwelling” like the county would like you to believe.
That old saying “if it walks and quacks like a duck — it’s a duck,” applies very strongly in this case. This county has been purposely sticking its head in the sand on this issue because when VHRs are legitimately declared “businesses” they fall under “special use permitting” (as they should).
It becomes quite clear that because these VHRs are definitely “businesses” they all need to be permitted under “special use permitting” and forced to meet all the criteria for approval that any other business would if allowed in a residential neighborhood. (Examples: day care centers, home office businesses).
Furthermore, all special use permitting requires radius approval by neighbors and Planning Department review processes before approval. This permitting process is extensive and absolutely necessary.
Our county officials have been hinting they might look at changing our residential zoning to accommodate their VHR ordinance revisions. WE can NEVER let this happen — and should violently protest any attempt by this county to attempt such a devastating zoning change!
Vacation home rentals truly devastate the character of our genuine neighborhoods.
They are definitely illegal transient lodging facilities inflicted upon our neighborhoods.
Our county officials are purposely continuing this vague VHR program, which circumvents any normal process that any other “special use permitting” would be required for, because of their greed for TOT revenue and tourism.
If local residents sit by calmly and let this county government do as they intend, they will implement a negatively impacting, revised VHR ordinance and re-zone our single-family dwelling neighborhoods.
If we allow this to happen, we will never reclaim our rights to enjoy peaceful living on our properties or in genuine neighborhoods.
WE demand a MORATORIUM NOW! This county needs to be forced to act in good faith by putting a moratorium of new permitting in place RIGHT NOW for all of us to make the right decisions.
Stand and fight with us people!
John Adamski is with the group Tahoe Residents First.