With five public meetings complete, it appears the Park County Planning and Zoning Department will move forward with recommending at least some regulations for short-term rentals.
“Primarily all members (Park County Planning and Zoning Commission) agree that some form of regulation or oversight should be implemented,” Joy Hill, Park county planning and zoning director said. “They feel that we would be remiss to do nothing.”
Of the 255 people who attended the meetings, 60 said they want no regulation and to continue the status quo for short-term rentals – rented for 30 days or fewer – moving forward. In contrast, 45 people said they would like regulations to be implemented.
One position that seemed universally shared, even among anti-regulators, is that the lodging tax is just and should be enforced. Websites such as Airbnb and VRBO automatically pull from a lodging sale to the statewide tax, but if operators solicits their home-stay business independently, there is no regulation ensuring they pitch in their part.
The city of Driggs, Idaho, just across the state line from Jackson, in 2018 hired Host Compliance, a Washington-based subscription service that finds short term rental units for municipalities, to help with this problem. Hill said a number of businesses have reached out to the county about this service. Registering new short rentals could also help toward the discovery effort.
Others, such as Cherie Fisher, who attended the Powell meeting, took a more libertarian stance and believe the industry is self-regulating.
One common viewpoint from the meetings, expressed by Bill Tallen at the Wapiti meeting was short-term rentals should face some permitting, like other more traditional businesses.
The main purpose for the meetings was for the county to formally garner a public feeling thermometer and make a decision for how it should move forward.
“The property rights of the neighbor who has people knocking on their door at midnight – can we help with that?” Dossie Overfield, Park County commissioner said at the Clark meeting. “We don’t know.”
Prior to the meetings, county staff offered an outline of the many potential actions that could take place, but it appears that few will see the light of day at this point.
At a Park County commissioner meeting held Oct. 1, Joy Hill said the county will likely move forward with light regulation and, or a registration process for new rental operations.
“Some kind of permit for owner-occupied or an SUP (special use permit) for non-owner occupied,” Hill said. “Make a distinction.”
Hill recommended setting up a steering committee, made up of members from each of the county’s districts to start this work.
In Jackson, short-term rentals are only available in certain parts of town and those who flaunt the zoning rules can receive an up to $750 a day penalty.
The town of Dubois has approached the topic in the past year with zoning and permitting regulations drafted but no official legislation has yet passed.
Recently, Centennial residents pushed Albany County officials for more regulations, but no action has yet taken place there either.
It’s no surprise that the county region with the highest quantity of short-term rentals also drew the largest turnout at the meetings, with 89 North Fork residents showing up to express their opinion, or at least learn more about the topic. In the North Fork alone there are at least 40 short-term rental operations.
Comments issued at the meetings ran a wide range of viewpoints. Some, who are neighbors to short-term rental units, offered horror stories regarding their experience, with Treva Lee relating having seen a 10-person house filled with 30 people.
At least 51 short-term rental operators also attended. Many of these people, like short-term rental owner Yvonne Kappelmann, said there are just a few bad apples ruining it for everyone else.
The commissioners will discuss this issue further during a 1:15 p.m. workshop at their meeting Tuesday.
“It’s not going to be easy,” Hill said. “I agree with P&Z ... it doesn’t really make sense that this little population is being isolated for some reason.”
While the county creates its new land use plan over the next year, it will incorporate ideas generated into this planning document. The last land use plan was crafted in 1998.
To view minutes from each meeting, visit parkcounty.us/planningandzoning/STR_Updates.html.