Washoe Commission approves STR ordinance

Laney Griffo

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — After two years and many meetings, the Washoe County Commission finally approved a short-term rental ordinance.

While the ordinance regulates all of unincorporated Washoe County, the majority of those STRs are in Incline Village and Crystal Bay.

The first reading was approved on Feb. 23 but several changes were made between the first and second readings.

Vice Chair Vaughn Hartung was concerned that some of the regulations, such as parking restrictions and defensible space requirements were burdensome to STR owners in the unincorporated county outside of Incline Village and Crystal Bay, so language was added stating those requirements were Tahoe Area specific.

External placard requirements and unscheduled safety inspections were removed from the ordinance. The ordinance also clarified how to determine occupancy levels; there is one occupant allowed per 200-square feet of habitable space, so not including areas like the garage.

Staff also clarified the fee and fine amounts, which were not included in the first reading.

For tier one STRs, which is one to 10 occupants, a standard permit will cost $758.40.

Tier two, which is 11-20 occupants, is the standard permit price plus $1,248 for an Administrative Review Permit. Tier three which is 21 or more is the standard permit price plus $2,092-$2,132 for an admin permit.

The renewal price for all three is $618 or less.

The fee structure is meant to cover the costs of implementation and enforcement and is based on a 500 permit average. The annual cost of implementing the program is estimated to be $192,219, most of which will go towards a code enforcement officer.

Fines were more than doubled from what was previously listed. The first fine would be $400, the second would be $700 and the third would be $1,000 and the loss of the permit.

For operating without a permit fines would be $400 plus the standard permit fee.

Public comment lasted more than an hour with most of it in opposition to the ordinance. However, there was a split between people who thought it wasn’t strict enough or wanted an outright ban on STRs and STR operators who thought it was too strict. Many STR operators who use their homes part-time and rent them out the other times thought the fee structure was a cost burden.

Because of the mostly negative response, Commissioner Jeanne Herman voted against the ordinance and the fee and fine structure.

However, both Hartung and Chair Bob Lucey said it was a good sign that both sides were unhappy because it meant they had found a balance with the ordinance.

Hartung did agree that the fees were too high. He approved them but asked staff to look into the possibility of lowering them.

Commissioner Alexis Hill, who represents Incline Village and Crystal Bay, was in favor of the ordinance, stating she hears her constituents when they say there is an overtourism problem.

“I feel your pain and I believe this ordinance will help alleviate these pains,” Hill said.

She did ask staff to develop a financial hardship application for people who might not be renting the STRs out full time.

The ordinance will begin to be rolled out in May and will be in full effect by August 2021. The ordinance will be brought back to the Commission in November to be reviewed.

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