We need enforceable, sensible STR rules to protect Tahoe (Opinion)

Alexis Hill
Guest column

Lake Tahoe is experiencing a problem that would thrill most communities — too much tourism, now termed “overtourism.”

We have not properly invested in the needed infrastructure to support these visitors, as was evident when the pandemic hit and people traveled to Lake Tahoe from around the region for “staycations.”

Alexis Hill

The Washoe County Commission recently voted to enact common-sense regulations related to short-term rentals. This is just the first step of many needed to address issues related to overtourism, especially in Incline village and Crystal Bay, where policies are needed to improve safety, such as requiring building and fire regulations; And in public health, such as requiring cleaning standards; And “peace and harmony,” such as requiring onsite parking, quiet hours and environmental stewardship.

The recent ordinance didn’t go far enough for some Incline Village and Crystal Bay residents who wanted to see much more stringent regulations, such as caps on minimum and maximum stays, distancing requirements between STRs, residential residency requirements for STR owners and many more. Some confusion exists about why these were not implemented in the ordinance adoption, especially since other jurisdictions in Nevada have implemented stricter regulations.

We still don’t know if these tighter restrictions in some other jurisdictions will hold up in court; Nevada has a 15-year statute of limitation for taking legal action. Adopting ordinances that embroil Washoe County in ongoing lawsuits is not a solution.

For proof, consider the fact that the Board of County Commissioners just settled a lawsuit from almost two decades ago that will delay the good work that we could accomplish on social and community services for the next three years. Responsible leaders must keep these concerns in mind when making laws.

I have learned that any major changes to the just-passed ordinance would mean that staff couldn’t implement any regulations on STRs for the summer of 2021, which is just around the corner. I have been hearing from the community serious concerns about public safety issues such as fires, trash thrown about in neighborhoods, out-of-control late-night parties and lack of protection for residents. I am convinced that adopting this ordinance was essential to removing irresponsible STR owners and giving neighborhood residents a recourse to enable them to remove bad actors when infractions occur.

As we continue to navigate the critical rules around STRs, we are working on myriad other policies to reduce congestion, and protect overtourism from overcrowding Lake Tahoe and its communities. It’s imperative that we also promote alternative access points to the lake to reduce vehicle miles traveled, create equitable solutions, and create safer parking and traffic solutions.

This is why it was imperative for me to move forward with what staff proposed with the intention to continue to make changes, add requirements as we go and learn from other jurisdictions. I welcome feedback from the community on the issue of STRs, and other issues related to the community we all love.

Alexis Hill is a Washoe County Commissioner for District 1 that covers Incline Village and Crystal Bay.

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