Washoe County Commissioners advise on short-term rentals ahead of ordinance update | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Washoe County Commissioners advise on short-term rentals ahead of ordinance update

Miranda Jacobson

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. – The discussion of short term rental (STR) properties in Washoe County was revisited during the Washoe County Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, Jan 26 after a large number of homeowners and STR owners alike voiced their opinion on the latest developments in the program.

Washoe County Communications Manager Bethany Drysdale said many of the new proposals to the county are based off the feedback from the community.

In May of 2021, the county passed a new ordinance which limited the number of occupants that can be put in STRs based off the square footage of the home. The ordinance was met with mixed reviews after many STR owners realized they were losing profits due to having to reduce their occupancy levels based on the new formula that was presented.

Drysdale said the topic of STRs within the community dates all the way back to 2007. But developments in the transient lodging rules began again almost ten years later.

“In February 2019, the Board of County Commissioners directed staff to begin the process to establish STR regulations,” said Drysdale. “It’s clearly a big topic in north Lake Tahoe with many residents finally happy to have a framework for STRs and some residents wanting more restrictions.”

Senior Planner for Washoe County Courtney Weiche gave a general update on the STR program, noting that there were also setbacks with the permitting process for STR owners, which was also suggested to be fixed.

According to Weiche, there are currently 467 issued permits for STR in Washoe County. Commissioner Bob Lucey of District 2 in Washoe County pointed out that there are 799 active STRs identified in the county currently, meaning there is a 40% non-compliance rate among the district.

Additionally, there have been over 200 complaints from community members in regards to things such as unpermitted STRs, concerns about excess trash, issues with parking, and occupancy levels.

Weiche and staff reported that 70% of STRs are located in condominiums and only 60% of them are managed by certified property managers.

The information comes during a huge affordable housing crisis in the district of Incline Village, with worker shortages effecting the entire basin. It was found last year that 80% of those who work in the Tahoe Region actually live outside of the basin and often have to commute.

To date, Washoe County has issued $10,367.20 in fines, and only $1,737.60 of them have been paid. In total this year, the county is projected to make $208,000 from the STR program from fees and fines that are put into the county’s General Fund.

Commissioner Bob Lucey expressed his concern over the 40% of unapproved STRs, along with questions about how the county is planning to combat those not following the rules.

“[It’s about] making those connections and getting that compliance,” said Commissioner Lucey, “That’s 40% of that unrealized tax room that is not being collected and that we feel is unsafe.”

Moving forward, staff presented a number of ways the county could help improve the problems presented not only by the community, but by those who are still non-compliant with the program.

For starters, staff recommended changing the occupancy formula for STR’s.

“We’re proposing to do two occupants per bedroom and the rest of the home is than calculated at one occupant per 200 square feet of habitable space,” said Weiche. “We’ve heard some concerns about the increased occupancies with this methodology. However, please keep in mind that the limiting factor is still the parking spaces. Each home requires one space for ever four occupants.”

Other proposals include changing the language of the trash containers to include bear boxes specifically instead of wildlife carts. 
Staff now plan to take direction from the Board of County Commissioners on how to move forward with the development code amendment at the beginning of March, before coming back on March 22, 2022 for the first reading of the new adoptions.

It was noted that due to the large number of applications for the STR program with many of them not to code or ready to be approved, there was an overwhelm at the county office, which resulted in a delay at issuing each permit.

Commissioner Lucey suggested making some technological changes that could potentially fastback the process.

“I’d like to look at some software and some technology potential either through a seller or whatnot,” said Lucey, “on how we can continue to efficiently move those processes to an online platform.”

Additionally, he said that prior to any ordinance changes, there needs to be more discussion with the Nevada Department of Wildlife in terms of bear boxes.

Commissioner Lucey was adamant about needing more time and clarification before the ordinance could be changed again.

“I’m not as motivated to change fee loads until we see some more data and some more time has lapsed,” said Lucey. “However, I would like to see the occupancy numbers changed to more facilitate the needs. As we point out, whether citizens of Incline Village are there or not there, that community was built as a resort community, not as a city or township, but as a resort community that has evolved into a city or township.

“The majority of that income, as we can continue to point out, comes from the transient nature of that community. And we pointed out earlier today that a portion of that population is even part-time within that community. So I have no desire to look at the fees increase until we have a little more clarification to that.”

Now, the planners will go back and continue to work on updates to the ordinance with the board’s direction. The next meeting will be March 1, 2022, where the staff will return with a development code amendment.

For more information about STRs in Washoe County, please visit washoecounty.gov/csd/planning_and_development/short_term_rentals/index.php.


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