(VIDEO) Property owners petition Nevada City government to allow short-term rentals in residential areas | TheUnion.com

(VIDEO) Property owners petition Nevada City government to allow short-term rentals in residential areas

Kathy Dotson uses AirBnB to rent out her cottage as a vacation rental in Nevada City.
Laura Mahaffy/lmahaffy@theunion.com | The Union

A group of interested property owners in Nevada City decided to take matters into their own hands to solve a conundrum that has left city officials and residents stymied for years.

Members of NC Hosts, a 15-member group of interested residents, are petitioning the city government to amend the General Plan and Municipal Code in order to legalize the hosting of short-term rentals in single-family homes within residential zones.

“This is not a request to overturn Measure F or Measure G, but rather to define and approve a new type of rental in the model made popular by today’s sharing economy, and found on the Web listing services such as Airbnb,” read a statement on the group’s webpage.

Members of NC Hosts are currently in the process of garnering signatures for their proposed legislation. They will continue to collect signatures until Oct. 12.

If NC Hosts succeeds in collecting the signatures of 10 percent of the registered voters in Nevada City within 180 days of filing a notice of intent to circulate petition, and have the signatures verified by the county, the city will have the options of either voting on the initiative at the next city council meeting, order a report, or put the proposal on the ballot for June, said City Manager Mark Prestwich.

Kathy Dotson, co-founder of NC Hosts, said the group filed the notice of intent around the end of September and has already collected a third of the required signatures.

“Our biggest point is that it really is a win-win situation,” said Dotson.

“It’s great for the city. It’s incredible for the merchants. It’s bringing tourists, and it’s truly supporting what the economy of Nevada City is all about, which is tourism.”

Dotson has been operating Downtown Bungalow since September 2014. The space is an attached guesthouse on her property on Orchard Street. Dotson said the careful screening policies offered by hosting websites such as Airbnb allow her to handpick her customers.

“We have the opportunity to screen our guests. If we don’t think they are suitable, we don’t have to approve the inquiry or the reservation,” she said.

Dotson said renting out the property has allowed her to earn a solid profit. She said calculations that the organization conducted indicated that the city would be able to collect at least $70,000 in tax from the rental businesses in town.

Vice Mayor Evans Phelps said the Airbnb businesses have existed for some time in the city, and she supports the group’s effort to legalize the rental model.

“We have 30 percent less available rooms than we did 10 years ago,” said Phelps, in regards to the limited number of rooms in established hotels and motels in Nevada City,”… They (the Airbnb rentals) are serving a need.”

NC Hosts’ proposal requires owners to register their property annually with the city and to pay “all applicable transient occupancy tax.”

The initiative also outlines restrictions such as not allowing owners to rent more than two units within a property and not allowing more than one vehicle per unit.

Dotson said the legislation was drafted after a sit-down with residents who opposed the idea. She said the group incorporated the concerns of the opposition into the proposal amendment.

But Gary Johnson, a Nevada City resident, said there are areas with the proposed legislation that still worry him.

“We already have a shortage of housing for long-term owners and renters and costs are rising due to scarcity of supply,” said Johnson. “The city is now challenged in meeting its affordable housing needs as mandated by the state. Even more of our precious little, existing stock will dry up under this proposed ordinance.”

In 1994, voters passed Measure F, forbidding the operation of short-term rentals in Nevada City.

But the advent of websites such as Airbnb.com and the idea of a “sharing economy” have muddied the initial concept of “short-term rentals.” At the same time, the city has seen an increase in the number of “Airbnb-type” rentals.

According to a review conducted by the city, there are approximate 20 operating “Airbnb-type” rental businesses in residential areas of Nevada City.

In January 2015, city received complaints from neighbors about such rentals; the complaints mostly concerned excessive noise, parking and increased traffic.

Prestwich said the city held a special meeting to discuss possible approaches to the issue in March, but it’s hard to define “Airbnb-type” rentals as one category.

Phelps said she expects the proposed legislation to come before the City Council by December.

To contact Staff Writer Teresa Yinmeng Liu, email tliu@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.

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