El Dorado County supervisors to discuss VHRs at Lake Tahoe
January 30, 2018
El Dorado County supervisors will host a special meeting in Lake Tahoe on Thursday, Feb. 1, to discuss one of the most controversial and heated topics in the Tahoe Basin: vacation home rentals.
At the meeting, supervisors will consider conceptual amendments to the county code governing vacation home rentals (VHRs) in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Those conceptual changes could touch on elements such as the permitting process, violations, occupancy, enforcement, parking and more.
No actual changes will be adopted at the meeting, but the supervisors could direct staff to work with the county's ad hoc VHR committee to bring a revised ordinance forward at a future meeting.
Earlier this month, supervisors voted, on a 3-1 vote, against directing staff to start the process of drafting a temporary moratorium on VHRs in the Tahoe Basin. The reason for the 3-1 vote by the five-member board of supervisors was due to Supervisor Sue Novasel's abstention.
An anonymous person filed a complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission (CFFPC) alleging a possible conflict of interest. A letter dated Jan. 3 informed Novasel — whose district includes the Lake Tahoe Basin portion of El Dorado County — of the complaint and the fact CFFPC was not pursuing an investigation.
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"After review of the complaint and additional information obtained, staff found that the complaint contained insufficient evidence of a conflict of interest violation of the Act; therefore, the Enforcement Division will not open an investigation into this matter," the letter states.
The complaint, according to Novasel, stems from the fact that her husband deals in mortgage loans for small businesses, mainly contractors building homes. Novasel has said throughout the ordeal that she doesn't see any conflict of interest.
"We have no control over what they do with those homes once they're built so I really feel that this … should in my opinion … not be a difficult decision on their part," Novasel told the Tribune Friday, adding that neither she nor her husband own a VHR.
In its Jan. 3 letter, CFFPC encouraged Novasel to seek advice from CFFPC on whether or not she could potentially encounter conflict of interest issues in the future. Novasel requested that advice on Jan. 8 and has since recused herself from discussions on the VHR issue until CFFPC offers its advice.
Novasel's recusal is out of an abundance of caution, county counsel Michael Ciccozzi told supervisors at the Jan. 9 meeting. County officials have said it typically takes 21 business days for CFFPC to issue its advisory letter.
Jay Wierenga, communications director for the CFFPC, told the Tribune that an attorney with the CFFPC is looking at the item and drafting an advice letter that will be issued in early February.
If that letter doesn't come before the Feb. 1 meeting, Novasel would recuse herself from the meeting in South Lake Tahoe — a development she said would be disappointing.
VHRs have become a lightning rod in the community. South Lake Tahoe City Council sought to address the matter and approved a series of changes the city's code late in 2017. The changes included much harsher fines, a new two-strike rule and other measures aimed at mitigating the negative impacts associated with vacation home rentals.
The changes did not appease some residents who earlier this month began collecting signatures to put a ballot question before voters. If enough signatures are collected and voters approve the question, the initiative would effectively phase out VHRs located outside the tourist corridor over a three-year period.
During their Jan. 9 meeting, El Dorado's supervisors heard from plenty of people, both for and against vacation home rentals. At least one speaker hinted at the possibility of a future initiative for the county.
Given the level of interest in the topic, Novasel said she doesn't want to see any delay in the county's process for addressing VHRs.
"That's very frustrating for me," Novasel said of the possibility she might have to recuse herself from the Feb. 1 meeting. "I just don't want to delay the process for everyone. Everyone is anxious to get moving on this and so am I."
The meeting starts at 6 p.m., Feb. 1,at Lake Tahoe Airport, at 1901 Airport Road, in South Lake Tahoe.