Planners wants to extend moratorium on short-term rentals

The Coupeville Planning Commission wants more time to study the effects of short-term rentals.

Planning Director Owen Dennison asked the town council Tuesday for an additional six months on the moratorium on applications for “guest house” rentals.

The idea is to use the time to evaluate regulations and adapt to newer models, such as Airbnb and VRBO.

“The industry has changed around us and it’s time to catch up,” Owen told the council.

If adopted, the extension will last from December through June 2019, but Owen said it could be ended earlier if a viable work plan is completed.

Owen said staff needs more time to find concrete numbers regarding how many businesses are formally established and how many are operating under the radar.

He said browsing through short-term rental websites, it’s easy to see there are more establishments than there are permits to do that kind of activity.

“It’s easy enough to avoid compliance,” he said.

The moratorium, which the council adopted in July, doesn’t affect businesses and bed and breakfasts that are already operating.

Since then, no new applications for “transient rentals,” renting for 30 or fewer days, have been accepted.

Some council members expressed concern about the extension butting up against the busy tourist season and the possibility of another extension.

Owen said should the council decide new regulations are necessary, they could be completed within a reasonable time frame.

He also said moratorium extensions are more difficult to justify each time and more open to challenge.

A public hearing on the ordinance to extend the short-term vacation rental application moratorium will be held 6 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 11.

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