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Vacation home ordinance under scrutiny with Realtors

Jack Barnwell
jbarnwell@tahoedailytribune.com

Potential proposals to increase regulations on South Lake Tahoe vacation home rentals (VHR) has drawn criticism from real estate agencies and vacation rental owners alike.

With the South Lake Tahoe City Council expected to take up the matter at its June 16 meeting, the South Tahoe Association of Realtors has sponsored a call to action via a website and mailers.

Sharon Kerrigan, the association’s executive vice-president, confirmed Tuesday that it is sponsoring the online campaign at http://www.keeptahoevacationrentals.com.

Keep Tahoe Vacation Rentals, a campaign urging people to speak against increased regulations, highlights its concerns and objections to a new ordinance.

Kerrigan said the association is still waiting for the actual draft ordinance to be released ahead of June 16 meeting.

Those concerns include that a new ordinance might require homeowners to obtain a short-term rental permit, which terminates with the sale of the property; potential permit holders to notify neighbors of obtaining a vacation rental permit and mandatory inspections.

The website quoted Brooke Hernandez, the association’s president, “The City Council’s proposed short-term rental ordinance will have a devastating effect on property values, and the South Lake Tahoe economy.”

The campaign calls such an ordinance “a major threat to vacation home rental property owners,” citing that property values will decline, local businesses will suffer and vacationers will rent elsewhere.

In April, the council approved an ordinance overhauling vacation home rental permits and fines, increased fines for repeat offender properties and regulated noise, parking and hot tub use.

The approved ordinance caused Lake Tahoe Accommodations, owned by Jim Morris, and others to file suit against the city council on June 5. Morris asked the EL Dorado County Superior Court to revoke the increased fees and stop the city from enforcing it.

Morris, like the realtors association, said he believes the regulations will harm property values and drive away vacationers.

“Between the lawsuit and what the association is doing, we’re getting the city on both ends,” Morris said by phone on Tuesday.

City Manager Nancy Kerry said the website opposing the proposed ordinance contained lots of opinion. She declined to comment on most of it, but said it contains some inaccurate information, including mandatory inspections of all properties will be conducted for ADA standards.

“That is not correct,” Kerry said. “A home is required to be built according to standards in place at the time the building permit is issued, not for compliance with later standards.”

She said some cities have already either banned vacation rental or garnering support to ban them, or are considering an approach similar to South Lake Tahoe.

“South Lake Tahoe is similar to other tourist communities taking up the issue of the growing trend in VHRs and the impacts on neighborhoods,” Kerry said.

She said the city council is addressing the issue with the goal to balance all parties, from tourists to real estate professionals and residents.

“It’s difficult balancing all of these competing interests and city council has been responsive to all of the voices on the issue,” Kerry said.

She added the new ordinance will allow residents the opportunity to voice their opinions when homes built as primary residences are requested to change to a VHR.

“The city council has requested staff develop a process providing those neighbors notification and an opportunity to voice their opinion just as they are notified for other changes in land use,” Kerry said.

A main sticking point about vacation rentals includes nuisance complaints. Both Morris’s lawsuit and South Tahoe Realtors Association-sponsored site note that of 757 residential complaints filed in 2014, only 162 involved vacation rental properties and 21 properties had repeat offenses.

Kerrigan said the association isn’t attached to the lawsuit.

“I think we are in-between the people who don’t want vacation rentals and those who don’t want more regulation,” Kerrigan said.


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