A revision of the ordinance governing vacation home rentals in Douglas County cleared the planning commission on Tuesday.
Like many jurisdictions across the country, Douglas County has been debating rules for residents who rent their homes to vacationers through services like AirBnB since June 2018. That’s when an ordinance that would have expanded the rentals into the East Fork Township was first proposed.
The same year, South Lake Tahoe residents approved a ballot measure to limit vacation rentals in the city’s neighborhoods.
Douglas formed a task force in 2019 that worked on the new ordinance for around a year before the ordinance was presented to commissioners, who spent several months working on it.
“The task force worked very long and very hard on this,” Planning Commission Chairman Kirk Walder said on Tuesday. “They provided the framework. The contribution they made was immense in getting the ordinance where it is today.”
The ordinance was scheduled to take effect July 15, which is the day a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order preventing the county from implementing portions, including a $20,000 fine for operating a rental without a permit.
A settlement conference in that lawsuit resulted in the revisions that planning commissioners approved on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, Chief Civil Deputy District Attorney Doug Ritchie said that fine would return for the worst offenders under the settlement.
“The intent of the fine was never to punish those who were trying to comply,” he said. “It was designed to catch those who are not making an attempt to follow regulations.”
Another major change was to increase the cap on the two larger categories of vacation home rentals from 600 to 650. The smallest category isn’t included under the cap. A compromise set the number of occupants in a vacation rental at two per bedroom plus two at all tiers.
Lake Tahoe resident Steve Teshara said he was happy to see the cap go up, though he pointed out the task force recommended 725.
“I was among those who predicted there would be litigation,” he said. “I appreciate there was some work on the settlement.”
He also raised the issue of vacation rentals being allowed in East Fork Township.
“The county is leaving money on the table by not having some VHRs in the Valley,” he said.
Vacation home rentals are prohibited in Carson Valley and Topaz Ranch Estates, which are in the East Fork Township.
Residents may seek a special use permit to conduct a bed and breakfast, which requires the owner to be present when renting.
That process requires a public hearing.
County commissioners are expected to hear the second reading of the ordinance at their Jan. 6 meeting.