In today's workshop session, the Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) continued their assault on STRs by drafting further restrictions into the proposed code. Needless to say, it’s getting worse and worse for STRs, but STRACC has a plan to get organized before the Public Hearing, currently set for Dec 22. More on that below, but first here’s a quick summary of today’s session. Specifically, the Commissioners.....
Retained the minimum lot size of 5 acres even in the RR2.5 zone.
RR20 and RR10, and RR5 with minimum lot sizes of 10, 5, and 5 acres respectively.
Allowed STRs in RRR zone with no minimum lot size.
Changed the permit fee structure:
Tier 1 (owner-occupied): $500 annually
Tier 2 (non-owner occupied): $500 first time, $900 second time with inspection, $500 annual renewal
Tier 3 (occupancy over 12): $2020 first time including CUP, $750 annual renewal
Capped Tier 3 occupancy at 24
Today's session focused on the BoCC's goal of reducing STRs to 5% of all housing units countywide. Currently, about 13% of all dwellings in the 98826 zip code are STRs so the County is aiming for a pretty drastic reduction. The Commissioners eventually decided on a lottery system to determine which owners could apply for a permit to operate an STR. Only STRs in permitted zones would be eligible.
Under the new code, you would need to get lucky in the STR lottery to apply for a permit even if your STR is in a "permitted" zone (i.e., RRR, RR5, RR10, or RR20). Otherwise, you will no longer be able to operate. If your STR is in a "non-conforming" zone like RW, RV, or RR2.5 on a lot smaller than 5 acres, you're out of luck and would be outlawed after a 3-year grace period. Period.
The Commissioners are clearly singling out some zones over others. The Community Development office’s analysis estimated that 354 out of 1020 rentals in rural areas of Chelan would be eliminated, the vast majority coming from RW or RV zones, while leaving other zones like RRR untouched. (The definition of RW and RRR in the County Code both similarly allow for "recreational and tourist activities.") The reasons for this targeting are not clear, in part because the Commissioners’ reasoning keeps changing. The County's hasty analysis also somehow assumes that only 2 out of 178 in RR2.5 would disappear, despite the requirement for STRs to be on lots double the minimum size (5 acres in a zone with a 2.5 acre minimum). So their estimate is most likely way undercounting the number of STRs that would be eliminated.
Why the Rush?
The BoCC is running out of time to pass the code in 2020. They’re desperately rushing to pass something before Tiffany Gering replaces Doug England as District 3 Commissioner at the start of next year, because they know that she was endorsed by STRACC and will support STRs. Trying to ram an unfinished, poorly structured, and thoroughly inequitable ordinance through before Tiffany can represent the will of the voters on this matter would be shameful behavior by the BoCC, even if we weren't in a pandemic where people are already suffering economically.
Fortunately, the BoCC was unable to finalize the draft code tonight, and the Commissioners acknowledged they won’t be done by next Tuesday, Dec 1. They also know they need share the finalized draft code with the hearing announcement, two weeks before the public hearing. So they are now aiming to finalize the draft code at their next workshop session on Dec 8, hold the public hearing on Dec 22, and a vote on Dec 29. Two days before the New Year. We need to apply pressure and make sure that doesn't happen!
So Let's Get Organized!
STRACC is planning an online meeting for STR supporters to learn about our organization, get involved and start planning for the Public Hearing on Dec 22. We will introduce you to the STRACC board, go over our finances and share an overview of our legal strategy going forward. We hope you will join us and get involved so we can pressure the County to hear our voices. The meeting is set for December 3rd at 6pm via Zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89693118268?pwd=QlRxOXdsV0xVUDV2RHJZU01aQVpUUT09. Mark your calendars!
Let's not mince words. Last night was reallybad for STRs in Chelan County. The Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) effectively moved to kill most of our STRs. Essentially, all STRs on less than 5 acres would beeliminated immediatelyunless they are currently owner-occupied ("Tier 1") or in a RRR (Rural Recreational) zone.
Specifically, the District Use chart the County they settled on last night would effectively kill all STRs in RW (Rural Waterfront) and RV (Rural Village) zones WITHOUT grandfathering-in any existing STR's or offering any sort of "sunset" period. This means that you could be out of business by the end of the year. Seriously. STR owners in RR2.5 may get a 3-year "grace period," but only if you somehow own 5 acres on an RR2.5 zoned lot. (If you don't know what your zoning is, check this map. Enter your address in the box and select "layers" on the left.
Sadly, it is unclear whether the Commissioners understand the economic impact of the drastic measures they're proposing. Do they appreciate the hundreds of thousands of dollars in lodging taxes we've each paid, the million$$ in local revenue our guests have generated, and the hundreds of affiliate jobs our businesses have created over the years?
RW's In particular have a long established history as vacation rentals over the past 30 years. It's no surprise that tourists have been naturally drawn to our shoreline properties. Indeed, the definition of RW's in the county code includes recreational and tourist uses. We therefore believe the County should grandfather in all RW's and allow existing nuisance ordinances to take force before taking the drastic step of killing such a huge part of our tourism industry. Let's finally enforce our nuisance ordinances before punishing everyone for the bad behavior few bad actors.
Now is the Time to Speak Up!
If you are impacted by these measures, we need you to speak up NOW! The Commissioners are accepting written public comment at CD.STRComment@co.chelan.wa.us. Write them a letter NOW and let them know specifically how these ordinances would personally impact your and your family's livelihood! The next workshop is scheduled for next Tuesday Nov 24th 10:30am, and the public hearing is scheduled for Tues Dec 8th r
Please DONATE Now!
If the County insists on killing STRs before even trying to enforce existing nuisance codes and grandfathering in existing STRs, they will inevitably face a large number of lawsuits and civil claims of 'property takings, both from STRACC and individual property owners. So we urge you to DONATE NOW TO OUR LEGAL DEFENSE FUND NOW so we can try to protect your STR property rights from this government takeover.
The voters of Chelan County have spoken clearly. We voted for Tiffany Gering, an avowed STR supporter, as the new County Commissioner for District 3. She should have a say before the current BoCC rushes to push this on this ordinance through before the end of the year.