The County is at it again - Now is the time to act!
The Chelan County Commissioners are using the COVID-19 lockdown to quietly push through new regulations that will limit your right to operate a vacation rental and transfer those operating rights to future owners. Both of these outcomes obviously have dire financial consequences. They hope this crisis will keep the people of Chelan County in the dark while they ram through unnecessary and unconstitutional measures.
These regulations are painful! This is what has been proposed:
Permits will be required to operate your rental. This permit will be costly ($500/year) and can be revoked. Imagine an unreasonable neighbor moving in that wants to shut you down. As we’ve seen before, they can harass the county and even your guests until you receive a cease and desist order forbidding you to honor your future reservations. *See Maria’s story below.
Permit will be non-transferrable. When it is time to sell your investment, you cannot sell it as a vacation rental. This will cost you thousands and potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Occupancy will be limited to 10 people max, including children. This limit applies to homes that can safely and comfortably sleep many more. Family reunions will be a thing of the past in Chelan County. Imagine wanting to share a home with your extended family and hotels being the only option.
Moratorium on future vacation rentals. Have you ever considered using an extra guest room to supplement your income? What if you lost your job and needed extra income to avoid foreclosure? This will be forbidden if the proposed regulations are adopted.
It appears the commissioners have forgotten that Chelan County is a tourist destination upon which local businesses depend in order to stay solvent. With the effects of COVID-19 on small businesses, now is not the time for Chelan County to lower its tax base.
Who is impacted?
Business Owners: STRs generate $40 million per year for local businesses. Limit STRs and occupancy and the impact on your business is significant.
Homeowners: If your circumstances change and you want to turn your home into an STR you will be denied due to the moratorium or pay a significant amount to get a permit.
STR owners: Once you have a permit, they have the right to come on your property any time and they have the right to pull your permit.
What you can do!
Donate to STRACC. We've rehired the legal team who helped us defeat last year's regulation effort, and we are planning a multi-faceted legal strategy to defend your property rights. We have a strong case, but it won't be cheap. We suggest a $300 donation per owner, but any amount helps!
Attend Wednesday's Meeting. The Planning Commission is holding a virtual public meeting this Wednesday at 7pm to review the latest draft code. We need to make our voices heard.
Write an email! Earlier this month we proved that your letter-writing works! So many of you wrote and convinced the Commissioners to reverse their unjust ban on STRs during the pandemic. Now, we need you to write them again and let them know how you feel about these new regulations. Here are some potential talking points:
Enforce the current codes! Ask the Commissioners to enforce existing Chelan County codes that address noise, garbage, and parking issues before adding new regulations that also won't be enforced. Sheriff Burnett has stated that STRs cause fewer problems than hotels and long-term rentals.
Demand that this process be delayed. Holding these proceedings via zoom limits the number of people who can participate. It is not a fair, equitable, and transparent proceeding. Equal access is a right, and is currently an impossibility.
Tell your story. If you are a business owner, explain how your business will be impacted. If you own a rental, share your positive relationships with neighbors and guests, and how your rental provides for you and creates jobs. If you are an advocate for property rights, describe how this impacts you!
Send the email before Wednesday's public meeting to the nine Planning Commissioners at CDPlanning@co.chelan.wa.us and the three Commissioners firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. Please also cc: email@example.com so we know how many letters are being sent in.
The truth is an overwhelming majority of citizens in Chelan county reject the proposed regulations but the Board of Commissioners does not seem to care. A local businesswoman who attended the April 28 BoCC Zoom meeting reports that commissioner Doug England stated, “We have all the input we need. We will not let this go past August. We can hold these hearings via Zoom; my grandson can help us figure out how to do it.” In other words, the Commissioners think this is a done deal, so they need to hear from you!. Commissioner Bob Bugert stated, “the code would be done before we are done dealing with COVID” via a recent Zoom meeting in Plain on May 8. He also refers to people that oppose vacation rentals as “key players” and encourages them to be actively involved while ignoring the concerns of owners.
So we all need to make our voices heard! Imagine the impact of 1500 STR owners in Chelan County donating to STRACC and writing letters to the planning commission and Board of Commissioners. So please spread the word among your friends and others impacted by these regulations. This is a battle we need to win and now is the time to act!
“The house was a disgrace to our neighborhood. With broken windows and surrounded by overflowing boxes of reeking garbage, it was the textbook definition of a drug house. Rats and other critters swarmed the place, as addicts occupied the premises and partied late into the night. This problem impacted us and our neighbors tremendously. My husband and I vowed to purchase and improve the house if ever given the opportunity.
Thankfully, it became available four years later. After several months and tens of thousands of dollars later, the house became a charming asset to our neighborhood. The timing was perfect as we met the need for affordable housing for The Leavenworth Summer Theater cast members. When they moved out in September, we needed to find a way to cover mortgage and upkeep. We simply “fell into” the vacation rental business.
To our horror, we received a letter from Chelan County commanding us to cease and desist renting our home or face a $750 penalty per night. We had 12 months of reservations on the books. What would we tell our guests whose vacations depended on our vacation rental? The county explained that we needed to stop the nightly rental because our community doesn’t want them. We learned that if a neighbor doesn’t like you, they can chronically complain and cause financial devastation to all.
STRACC walked through the legal battle with us and we can’t be more grateful for their support. With STRACC’s help, we won our LUPA case and are now able to rent our home again!”
*Name has been changed to protect privacy