Washoe County eyes fall for release of draft vacation rental regulations

Washoe County Commissioner Marsha Berkbigler speaks at a meeting last year in Incline Village about vacation rentals.

Washoe County Commissioner Marsha Berkbigler speaks at a meeting last year in Incline Village about vacation rentals.

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Washoe County officials are admittedly trying to wrap their arms around the short-term rental industry and have since tapped the community to better understand the impacts the market has on areas such as Incline Village.

Officials are continuing to see an influx of short-term rentals in the community as the popularity of rental market places such as VRBO and Airbnb continues to soar. At the same time, concern from those in community is also mounting.

Steve Dolan, a resident of Incline Village for more than 30 years, said he has several issues with the industry, including the impact it has on workforce housing affordability and the price of homes.

“I used to own, but now I'm a long-term rental person and I have seen people my age who are also impacted with no available housing,” he told the Tribune. “And, there is no opportunity to buy because the prices are going up.”

Dolan attended the most recent workshop the county hosted in Incline Village on Wednesday, Aug. 28. Two previous workshops were held in Reno and Incline Village.

More than 60 people were at the Aug. 28 meeting, with more than 75% of them self identifying as full-time residents. About half raised their hands when asked whether they had stayed in a vacation rental before and several admitted they sometimes rent out their homes.

The county, which doesn't currently have anything on the books to regulate the industry, wants to define it as a separate use within the development code and establish standards through a permitting process. Any regulations, while county-wide, would only apply to the areas outside of Reno and Sparks.

Kelly Mullin, a senior planner with the county, emphasized that an outright ban on short-term rentals is not feasible, reiterating the stances of County Commissioners Bob Lucey and Marsha Berkbigler who dismissed the idea at a meeting back in January.

“Other communities have banned short-term rentals in the past, but they continue to exist and run in a variety of ways,” said Mullin. “They are still being found on those online booking platforms and still exist in the communities, but there are no standards that are regulating them.”

According to Mullin, residents have strongly urged officials to create a specific set of considerations and regulations for Incline Village.

“One of the reasons we are here tonight is because we recognize that there are impacts associated with short-term rentals and we want to make sure we have a good grasp about what all of those impacts are,” Mullin said.

Tom Jingoli, a Las Vegas resident who owns a vacation home in Incline Village, said he understands both sides of the issue. Before purchasing his home, Jingoli said he used vacation rentals when he would visit Lake Tahoe.

“It's not going to go away and they aren't going to abolish it,” he said in an interview. “For me it's about getting tight regulations out there about what you can and cannot do. Parking is an issue, along with garbage and noise. But, I also understand if someone rented their house to people and there weren't any issues. It's probably their right to do that.”

Jingoli advocated for “strong rules and regulations and severe penalties.” He even suggested excluding homeowners with multiple violations from the program.

The nearly two-hour long meeting touched on a number of critical issues, including the permitting process, occupancy limits and parking.

Mullin said county staffers will now begin sifting through the comments that were made during the three workshops and compiling the data into a comprehensive proposal that can be presented to county commissioners in the fall.

Andrew Whyman, who lived in Incline Village for 18 years and now spends part of his time in Hawaii, was critical of the county's efforts.

He said the county needs to better understand the short-term rental market before any regulations are put in place. He said the industry needs to be quantified — how many units are available, how often are they used, and how many complaints are logged.

“I don't want to lose the community over this,” he said.

Angelique McNaughton is a freelance writer living in South Lake Tahoe who writes for the Tahoe Daily Tribune. Find her online at AngeliqueMcnaughton.com.


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