Judge temporarily halts Measure T occupancy limits | RecordCourier.com

Judge temporarily halts Measure T occupancy limits

Bill Rozak
brozak@tahoedailytribune.com

An El Dorado County judge has issued a restraining order that temporarily prohibits the city of South Lake Tahoe from enforcing new occupancy limits in vacation home rentals brought on by the recently voter-passed Measure T.

About a dozen people were in attendance Monday, Dec. 24, in El Dorado County Superior Court to hear Judge Thomas A. Smith's decision.

The matter was originally slated to be heard the previous Wednesday in South Lake Tahoe after a lawsuit was filed the day before, but Superior Court Judge Michael McLaughlin recused himself for reasons that have not been clarified.

Andrew Pierce, representing the South Lake Tahoe Property Owners Group who filed the suit, told Smith that Measure T was unconstitutional and it should be overturned. But first the group just wanted to place a temporary restraining order due to the "thousands" that have already made vacation plans.

South Shore resident Scott Robbins, a Measure T supporter, said the judge's decision didn't mean a whole lot since the city already said it would use discretion on enforcing the new occupancy limits.

"Since the city decided to postpone implementing Measure T, this ruling doesn't change much right now," Robbins said.

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City attorney Heather Stroud said she and City Manager Frank Rush needed to go before City Council to get more direction before moving forward.

The decision by the judge does not impact the prohibition on issuing new VHR licenses.

The court appearance lasted about 15 minutes, but after the ruling, Rush and Stroud were questioned by T supporters.

Robbins questioned whether the city would vigorously defend the measure.

"The city has a fairly extensive history of prioritizing tax revenue over quality of life for its residents," Robbins said. "But we fully expect it to be adjudicated in our favor and the vote upheld."

Rush, who has been on the job since Dec. 3, said the city will enforce the measure.

"The timing is the biggest challenge for us," Rush said. "But we're committed to enforcing it and implementing it in a proper manner."

The city has already stated it would use discretion on how it will enforce the new rules, especially since many visitors made plans before the passage of Measure T.

During the injunction the city is postponing the re-issuance of all existing VHR permits in residential areas intended to reflect the new maximum occupancy limits.

Measure T was a citizen-driven initiative that asked voters if they wanted to ban VHRs in residential areas. The only exception is that full-time residents have the ability to rent out their home up to 30 days per year.

It passed by 58 votes.

The ban does not take effect for three years, but the new occupancy limits were to be implemented immediately.

The temporary restraining order is in place until Jan. 24, when the court will hear further arguments at 8:30 a.m. in department 9, located at 3321 Cameron Park Drive, Cameron Park, California.