Washoe County Commissioners raise STR fees, discuss work to be done for program
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev.— The Washoe County Board of Commissioners voted to increase fees related to short-term rentals in the county after it was revealed that Washoe County tax payers are currently subsidizing the STR program.
Standards and regulations were established for STRs in the county in 2021 after a two-plus year public interaction process. These standards address quality of life impacts, occupancy, safety, and other aspects of STRs that seemed to cause problems in local communities.
The initial fees that were set were based on future projections and “guesstimates,” leading to the expectation that staff would need to reassess the fees after the program was established. Issues that were identified with the program currently include the program being understaffed, meaning it does not operate at maximum efficiency, leading to delays in processing and responses. Additionally, Planning and Building Division Director Kelly Mullen explained during her presentation that general taxpayer dollars have been heavily subsidizing the STR program.
The estimated cost for the fiscal year 2024 is $516,000 to run the program, but the projected STR Tier 1 permit application revenues for that same fiscal year is only at $257,000, with an annual estimated shortfall of $259,000.
Commissioner Clara Andriola pointed out that even though the regulations impact all districts in the county, over 90% of STRs are in the Incline Village and Crystal Bay areas.
“It does seem like it needs a lot more work,” said Andriola.
The board was able to pass through changes to fees, which will see an increase in the initial permit and renewal fees between approximately $270 and $350, depending on specifics of the permit. New additional fees will also be added for changes to the permit following its approval, including a change in local responsible party or agent, or an application appeal of a Tier 1 STR permit denial.
The proposed solutions for the issues raised in the STR program include hiring dedicated staff to manage STR duties, reducing costs to operate by using para-professional staff rather than high level staff, and increasing the STR fees to cover the gap currently being subsidized.
Mullen explained that through public feedback prior to bringing changes to the board, it was generally agreed upon that STR owners did not believe the fees should cover the cost of the STR program and found the increases unreasonable, whereas non-STR owners believed the fees should cover the cost of the program and find the proposed fees responsible.
Commissioner Michael Clark raised his own concerns about the STR program, questioning if the county should even be involved in the STR market.
“This is set up to lose money,” said Commissioner Clark. “Some people are profiting, the county is paying, and we’re irritating other people. Could it get worse than that?”
Many of the commissioners agreed that enforcement of STR regulations seemed to be key moving forward, pointing out that the main complaints of STRs include traffic and parking, noise and rowdiness, and trash issues.
Commissioner Clark also pointed out that the majority of STRs are in the Incline Village and Crystal Bay areas, and questioned why regular taxpayers are subsidizing a program that a select few are profiting from.
“Working class people are paying their taxes to be used to help rich people rent out properties up there,” said Commissioner Clark.
Chairwoman Alexis Hill reminded the board that she ran for her position on the commission with the promise that she would address the issues with STRs, bringing up a time STR issues has neighbors against neighbors, with complaints through the roof.
“I think eliminating this program would be a loss for our community,” said Commissioner Hill. “This program has helped mend relationships and again, it’s not perfect, but it’s a place for people to remedy their concerns. It is a common sense regulation.”
The board also discussed code amendments to limit the number of STRs in unincorporated Whose County. Although the item did not pass through, the board did vote to initiate amendments to streamline the verification and enforcement process.
Additionally, the board voted to reengaged the community in the process of changes to STR code, and to look at the tiers of permit types.
To learn more and watch the entire meeting visit http://www.washoecounty.gov/bcc/board_committees/index.php.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.