Grass Valley city council OKs regulating vacation, short-term rentals | TheUnion.com

Grass Valley city council OKs regulating vacation, short-term rentals

Grass Valley officials backed away from a proposal to limit the number of vacation rentals in town. But during a meeting Tuesday, council members voted to approve an ordinance that will regulate short-term rentals of rooms within homes as well as whole-house rentals.

Short-term rentals have been a hotly debated topic, with some saying such vacation homes are exacerbating a growing housing crisis by taking long-term rentals off the market.

The issue first came before the city council in June 2017. In September, the council agreed Grass Valley should establish regulation for such rentals. During Planning Commission hearings on the proposed ordinance in January and February, many locals came out to speak, mostly on the topic of vacation rental homes.

The new ordinance creates a new section to allow short-term rentals, which are categorized as hosted short-term rental units (with no more than two rooms to be rented in a home), and vacation rental homes (the whole home can be rented). A swift process will be created to address violations of the operating standards.

Among other requirements, homeowners or property managers must live within 30 miles of the vacation rental and be readily available in the event the city needs to make contact.

Both rental categories would be required to pay transient occupancy taxes and obtain business licenses.

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The draft ordinance also proposes scaling back requirements for traditional bed and breakfast inns in order to level the playing field for those businesses, which compete with online rentals through websites like AirBnB, VRBO and HomeAway.

One proposed portion of the ordinance, to limit the number of permits for vacation rental houses to 20, proved controversial.

Community Development Director Tom Last said city staff estimated the number of current vacation rentals in the city at between 50 and 60, leading to questions about the selection process to whittle down that number.

"Are we stripping people of their rights?" said council member Jason Fouyer.

Last pointed out that vacation rentals are not permitted and are in violation of the city's zoning code.

"This would legitimize them," he said.

"We have granted permission by not enforcing the rules on the books," Fouyer said. "I'm not necessarily interested in taking that away."

Council member Lisa Swarthout agreed, saying. "You're on a very slippery slope when you tell people what they can or cannot do with their homes."

According to Swarthout the ordinance was initiated by one complaint from a neighbor, as well as the desire by one council member to collect transient occupancy tax on the rentals.

"I hate the fact that we are being put in the position of mediating issues between neighbors," she said. "This is not really within our purview."

The ordinance, minus any limit on permits, was approved by the council on a 3-1 vote with Swarthout voting against it and Mayor Howard Levine recusing himself.

funding pitches

Local arts organizations had the opportunity to make community funding pitches to the council for inclusion in the budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Each year, several community groups request funding from the city, typically to assist with their day to day operating budgets. Due to fiscal constraints, the city now requests that each group propose project-oriented funding requests rather than more general operations support.

For the next fiscal year, the Center for the Arts has requested $45,000. The Nevada County Arts Council asked for $5,000 for its Sierra Poetry Festival. Wild & Scenic Film Festival requested $5,000. The Nevada County Economic Resource Council and the Greater Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce partnered to request $10,000 to develop a Grass Valley Destination mobile application. Grass Valley Downtown Association requested $20,000.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.