County rejects VHR settlement


Douglas County commissioners rejected a proposed settlement of a federal lawsuit over vacation home rental.

Commissioners voted 5-0 to reject the settlement and a revision to the ordinance to codify it.

Several residents spoke against settling the ordinance, urging commissioners to be strong.

Stateline resident Tim Barabe asked commissioners to stay strong in upholding the ordinance.

“The residents of Douglas County oppose any compromises here,” he said. “Pay attention to the people who live here and vote for them.”

Commissioners John Engels and Wes Rice participated in the settlement conference.

“I’m the commissioner who brought forward the moratorium on VHRs,” Engels said. “I’m of the persuasion these VHRs are a scourge on our communities.”

Engels encouraged Tahoe residents to seek a referendum to eliminate all vacation rentals in the county.

Rice, a Lake Tahoe resident, said he was trying to resolve the lawsuit so the county’s ordinance can go forward.

“I just wanted to see something resolved,” he said.

Commissioner Danny Tarkanian argued passionately against the settlement, saying the plaintiffs were protecting their business interests not their rights.

“The only reason we’re here today is because nine wealthy VHR owners hired a high-powered attorney to come and threaten Douglas County,” Tarkanian said. “We’re going to have a limit on VHRs, but because one guy had enough money to hire a high-powered attorney, he’s going to keep five of them for 10 years?

That doesn’t seem right to me, it doesn’t seem equitable, and it seems like a complete dereliction of the county commissioners’ duty.”

Tarkanian said he felt that settling the VHR lawsuit would encourage others to sue the county.

“This board must show it will not be bullied by nine individuals protecting their business interests.”

Rice said Tarkanian’s argument won his vote.

“That’s a damn good argument,” he said. “You’ve swayed me.”

Commission Chairman Mark Gardner said he had an issue with provisions in the settlement that would prohibit a commissioner from bringing forward alterations to the ordinance until 2031.

Alterations may be proposed by the VHR ordinance advisory committee.

“I don’t believe the voters would have us cede our legislative responsibilities to another group of people,” he said.

The county approved the vacation home rental ordinance in June 2021 to be effective on July 15. Nine vacation home rental owners sued the county. An injunction preventing the county from implementing segments of the ordinance was issued by a federal judge.

With the settlement off the table, a hearing on the preliminary injunction has been set for Jan. 31 and District Judge Robert Jones will likely allow the case to move forward to discovery.


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