Washoe commissioners approve 1st reading of STR ordinance

Laney Griffo


INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — The Washoe County Commission approved the first reading of a short-term rental ordinance, over a year after it was first introduced to the commission.

The ordinance covers STRs in the unincorporated areas of Washoe County, and nearly 90% of them are in Incline Village and Crystal Bay.

The ordinance was brought to the board in Feb. 2020 and at that time, the commission said several changes needed to be made before approving it. Since then, Incline Village residents have been reaching out to county staff with the list of things they’d like to see in the ordinance.

When drafting the ordinance, county staff adopted the mission statement to, “adopt simple, fair and enforceable regulations for STRs that balance competing interests and maximize voluntary compliance.”

The ordinance has a tiered permitting system. Tier one is 10 or less guests which would be the basic STR permit. Tier two is 11-20 guests which would require an administrative review and the basic permit. Finally, tier three is 21 or more guests and would require a public hearing to get the permit. They can only be in areas zoned for hotels and motels and commercial standards apply to the property.

Occupancy limits are based on existing fire and building codes, parking capacity and self-limits such as bedrooms available.

The ordinance states that no parties, events or weddings are allowed which staff hopes addresses some of the residents’ concerns such as noise complaints. There will also be quiet hours from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. and a decibel device will be installed if there are two confirmed violations.

As far as enforcement goes, Washoe County Sheriff’s Office will use host compliance to do proactive permit compliance, as well as responding to complaints. Fines will be established at the second reading of the ordinance but staff said they will be substantial. If there are three affirmed violations within a 12 month period, the permit will be revoked and there will be a one year cooling off period before the owner can apply again.

However, several of the residents’ concerns were not addressed by the ordinance. Residents do not want a person or corporation to be able to hold three or more permits throughout town, although staff said only 2.9% of property owners own more than two properties in Incline Village.

They also wanted only Incline residents to be able to get STR permits. Staff said it would be too difficult to enforce that but community leader Sara Schmitz said it could easily be achieved by using voter records.

Vice Chair Vaughn Hartung also had concerns about some of the regulations, such as parking restrictions and the bear box requirement, that only apply to Incline Village impacting STRs in other parts of the unincorporated county. When approving the ordinance, it was amended to state those regulations only applied to Incline Village.

While there are likely kinks that still need to be worked out in the ordinance, both commissioners Kitty Jung and Alexis Hill expressed concern about not approving it and going into summer with no ordinance in place.

They passed in unanimously and it will be brought back in March for the second reading. If approved, the permitting system will launch in May and be fully active by August.

Still, many Incline residents are unhappy with the ordinance. Resident Judith Miller was so disappointed that during public comment, she resigned her position as chair of the Community Advisory Board, which the county had asked to help structure the ordinance.

During Tuesday’s commission meeting, commissioners also approved the payment of the refund and interest payments for the League to Save Incline Assets lawsuit. This was mostly a formality, with the commission agreeing to pay its debt.

Washoe County School District has been outspoken against being held liable for a mistake that wasn’t theirs. School board Vice President Andrew Caudill spoke saying forcing the district to make payments they had budgeted would only hurt the students.

Hill asked staff to look into ways the county can help alleviate some of the burden from the school district and bring back a solution to a future meeting.

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