This summer has been busier than ever with short-term rental housing options springing up all over Washoe County from Incline Village to Spanish Springs and vacationers flocking to Northern Nevada to take advantage of them.
Only in the last few years have these grown more popular with the advent of Airbnb, VRBO, and even MSNBC’s new show Cash Pad. However, in Washoe County there are currently no standards or ordinances for maintaining a STR in its unincorporated areas and the full time residents of these towns are getting annoyed at the noise, parking, trash, safety, occupancy limits and other issues that STR vacationers bring. Therefore, Washoe County is starting to take a closer look at STRs and collecting input from those affected to try to draft an ordinance on STRs to be ready early next year. The county recently sent out a survey asking people to share their concerns about STRs in their neighborhood and hosted three workshops last week- one in Reno and two in Incline Village- and are asking people to help come up with a STR program that works for everyone.
On Aug. 26, at least 150 people gathered at the Chateau at Incline Village to talk about the issues surrounding STRs. The attendees- mostly residents who are against having STRs in their neighborhood- were directed to tables that reflected their utmost concerns that were labelled “Noise”, “Safety”, and “Parking”. For the next hour and a half, Washoe County Commissioner Marsha Berkbigler shared some background information and misconceptions about STRs and then encouraged attendees to come up with solutions.
“We understand the concern that people aren’t as friendly as they used to be and they may not have the same care for the places they are staying at,” Berkbigler says. She shared that the planning code states that an STR can be rented out for up to 28 days but then it changed to include the TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax) that STR owners collect and then gets redistributed through the RSCVA.
“Right now, Washoe County is in non-compliance with its own ordinance; the county has one and the RSCVA has another,” Berkbigler says. “Currently Washoe County does not license these STRs; RSCVA is part of the County, but not responsible to it. We need to figure out how to fix it and the best way to do that is to regulate it,” she adds.
The county’s intent is to make STRs revenue neutral by charging a licensing fee and using the fees to manage it.
“There are a whole lot of factors involved in this,” she adds.
The county has firmly stated that a complete ban on STRs in unincorporated areas is not possible since commissioners have seen this enacted in other destination areas and illegal rentals will still exist. Another misconception is that the county will get millions of dollars from collecting room tax, but Berkbigler stated that redistribution of the TOT is not considered right now. She reiterated that license fees imposed on STRs would go towards enforcing the program, including fire and safety inspections.
After the county’s short presentation, the attendees start chatting in smaller groups to try to determine what some possible solutions to allowing continued use of STRs should be. Residents suggested that some of the best ways to mitigate the issues would be to hire more police, post signs on the properties with the owners’ contact information, only allow a certain portion of neighborhoods to be zoned for STRs, and make sure that safety inspections regularly occur and are enforced.
Fulltime residents asked that consequences of violating the ordinance needs to be substantial enough to matter to the property owner or that a property manager is mobile enough to deal with short-term rental problems as they arise.
Washoe County listened to all concerns and then hosted another completely full workshop on August 28. The Washoe County Commissioners are looking to make recommendations for how to create an ordinance/ licensing program sometime in October/November and then after drafting the language for the new program will hopefully open a public comment period at the end of the year regarding the issue. For more information about STRs in unincorporated Washoe County or to take the survey, visit www.washoecounty/us/str.