County approves fourth code enforcement officer

A fourth code enforcement officer was approved for hire by Douglas County commissioners, who balked at investing too much into vacation home rental enforcement.

County Manager Patrick Cates also sought an administrative assistant and the equivalent a deputy sheriff to round out the county’s code enforcement team.

The assistant would do the paperwork generated by enforcement activities, while the sheriff’s office would receive funding for an additional deputy to cover any backup the code enforcement officers require.

Cates argued that the vacation home program would pay for itself with fees charged operators, but for the first six months the county would have to provide around $300,000.

A third code enforcement officer was approved earlier, but is still in the recruitment phase. That position closes on Monday.

Because it takes more than two months to fill the positions, county staff was hoping to start advertising for the additional positions.

“The board made it clear it wants to see on-the-ground enforcement for this program,” Cates said. “That is a very urgent need. We want authorization to create the positions now so we can get resources on this program and enforcement is what we’re lacking most.”

County Commissioner Wes Rice, who represents Lake Tahoe, said the need for the positions is urgent.

“I get more complaints about the VHR problem than anything else,” he said. “I’ve looked at this program, and it will pay for itself. The funding is not coming out of the general fund, but out of the money that VHR owners are paying for their services. We need to get it taken care of, because these things are totally out of control.”

However, Commission Chairman Barry Penzel joined commissioners John Engels and Dave Nelson in opposing hiring an assistant.

“Until we get up to speed, I’m adamantly opposed to hiring any additional staff,” he said.

However, commissioners compromised to approve hiring the fourth officer.

The county has been working on its vacation home rental policies for more than two years.

Cates said he would present a fee schedule and code changes required to implement recommendations of a task force that issued its report in October.

Vacation or temporary home rentals are only permitted in the Tahoe Township in Douglas County, though there are some operating illegally in East Fork Township.

While agreeing to hire more code enforcement officers the county declined to implement a 725-cap on rentals.

Last week El Dorado County Supervisors approved a 10-percent cap on vacation rentals in the Lake Tahoe Basin, which would limit the number to 900, according to the Tahoe Tribune. Most of the 720 active vacation rentals in El Dorado’s portion of the basin are located in South Lake Tahoe.

In October, there were 608 vacation home rentals in the Douglas portion of the basin with another 135 operating without a permit.

Vacation rentals are required to pay room taxes, which are expected to bring in around $1.9 million this year.

An average vacation rental permit generates between $25,000 and $30,000 for the owner with average room rates of $372.

For more information, visit the county’s VHR page at


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