Commission suspends approval of new vacation rentals – St George News

Washington County Commissioner Discusses Need for County to Revise Short-Term Rental Policy, St. George, Utah May 4, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Washington County / CEC, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Due to fears that the county’s current policies regarding the regulation of vacation rentals, also known as short-term rentals, are too broad and lack clarity, the Washington County Commission voted to put a hiatus on vacation rentals. six months upon approval of any new vacation. rental requests for unincorporated parts of the county earlier this month.

In this file, the photo shows Dixie Springs, a vacation rental hotspot in Hurricane City at the time that was the source of the few complaints the city received about short-term rentals. Hurricane, Utah, September 8, 2016 | File photo by Reuben Wadsworth, St. George News

“We will not stop forever,” Commissioner Victor Iverson said at the May 4 committee meeting. “It’s just that our prescription really doesn’t match what we’re seeing on the pitch, and we have to take this break really quickly and reassess it. … We don’t ban vacation rentals. “

The subject of short-term rentals has been a hot issue in Washington County in recent years. The case culminated in the termination of many owner-occupied AirBnB rentals in St. George in 2015.

This in part led to the passage of state legislation in 2017 limiting the means by which city and county authorities can locate potential vacation homes in their area for the purposes of code enforcement. .

So what are the county’s problems with vacation rentals?

Washington County Assistant District Attorney Victoria Hales told the commission that the county’s current policy on short-term rentals requires owners of such businesses to obtain a county business license and register with the state. . County policy after that is very broad and vague.

Under the original ordinance, vacation homes are listed as both permitted and conditional use in every residential area in the county, as well as in its agricultural, multi-family, and certain open areas.

“They’re allowed wherever homes are allowed now, and we’ve had a lot of negative impacts on single-family neighborhoods,” Hales said.

Washington County Assistant District Attorney Victoria Hales speaks with the Washington County Commission about the six-month hiatus on requests for new vacation homes so the county can review its policies, St. George, Utah, May 4, 2021 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

There is also no clear policy on the size of a lot to house a vacation rental, Hales said.

This is a point Iverson said he finds frustrating, as he recounted an experience of meeting a large house in a cul-de-sac which was advertised by the owner to accommodate up to 60 people at a time.

“I’m sorry, but if you advertise to 60 people so you can stay, this is a hotel. It’s not a house, ”Iverson said.

Common complaints from residents of neighborhoods where these rentals exist tend to relate to noise, garbage, and parking issues, as multiple cars can accompany vacationers.

In some cases, these types of rentals are “investment property” contributed by local or foreign residents who do not live in the neighborhoods in which their vacation rentals are located.

The constant coming and going of visitors on a regular basis is also seen as disruptive in some communities, Iverson said.

Competition between short-term rentals, hotels and motels in the area was also mentioned. Hales and Almquist said hoteliers have various health and safety regulations and taxes to follow and pay in the course of their business, and vacation rentals in the county may not be.

Owners of vacation rentals booked through services such as VRBO and AirBnB should purchase insurance for those rentals and monitor a list of security protocols for the owner / host and their guests, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this file photo, St. George resident Stephen Palmer (white shirt, beard), seated by Representative John Knotwell, R-Herriman, as he testifies before the House Affairs and Labor Committee in in favor of House Bill 253, the bill proposed by Knotwell that would prohibit cities from banning short-term rentals occupied by their owners, Salt Lake City, Utah, February 13, 2017 | File photo courtesy of Stephen Palmer, St. George News

“We want to level the playing field,” Almquist said, adding that vacation rentals should be subject to the same health and safety regulations and taxes as hotels.

Short-term vacation rentals have been seen as an inexpensive alternative to staying in hotels while traveling.

The increase in vacation rentals across the county is also seen as one of the reasons for the increase in housing prices, Hales said.

Instead of renting long-term to a student, a young family, or maybe a single adult trying to settle down, landlords find it more lucrative to house short-term tenants. This limits homes otherwise unavailable for rental and adds to the pressure on affordable housing, she said.

While the less positive effects of short-term rental, as described by Hales and the Commissioners, have been the main topic of discussion as to why a six-month break on new vacation homes was necessary; all three have repeatedly stressed that owners have the right to do with their property as they see fit.

In the case of short-term rentals and where they may appear, however, the rights of pre-existing owners should also be taken into account and weighed accordingly.

Nonetheless, county officials have yet to grapple with the “booming and popular” trend of vacation homes that caught the county off guard and forced it to revise its policy, Hales said.

“What we’re looking for is a pause button on all new apps,” she said. “We are only asking for a six-month break so that we can define the policies correctly and write them correctly.”

Whatever form the new policy will take remains to be seen. In cities like St. George and Washington, there are dedicated areas for vacation home development and special overlays that allow it.

While the larger 60-person vacation rentals don’t get any favors from Iverson, he also said he has few issues with landlords who can rent out part of their home and get little feedback from their owners. neighbors.

“Some rentals have no impact on others,” Hales said.

Almquist and Iverson voted to pass the resolution putting a six-month moratorium on new requests. Commissioner Dean Cox, the third member of the commission, was absent while dealing with county affairs elsewhere, Almquist said.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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