Moratorium on short term rentals

By Jon Michael Karpilow
Posted 4/17/24



In a surprisingly swift action, Jefferson County has approved a one-year moratorium on new applications for short-term rentals (STRs). The decision, made April 8, specifically …

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Moratorium on short term rentals




In a surprisingly swift action, Jefferson County has approved a one-year moratorium on new applications for short-term rentals (STRs). The decision, made April 8, specifically applies to Department of Community Development (DCD) permit applications for transient residences and guest houses made available for short-term lodgings of fewer than 30 days. 

According to a brief public press release and discussions with DCD staff, the purpose of the moratorium is to provide county employees with time to evaluate current policies, assess guidelines adopted by similar communities and deliberate on amendments to existing regulations.  While a year has been set aside for this process, DCD Director Josh Peters is quoted as saying the county “is aiming to get a proposal on the table for consideration and action sooner than that.”

The decision to enact the moratorium follows three public meetings held by the county in March. In one meeting, held at the fire station on Cape George Road, individuals acknowledged the contributions that short-term rentals make to the local economy, particularly during the high-tourist season, but expressed concerns that unregulated expansion in the number of STR units jeopardizes the ability of local workers to find affordable housing and potentially compromises the integrity of communities.

In a phone conversation, Kate Dean, the Chair of the Board of County Commissioners (BoCC), said that work with an outside consulting firm that monitors the numbers of STRs identified over 500 units in unincorporated Jefferson County. This number is in stark contrast to county data that shows fewer than 75 short term rental permits have been issued.

Dean added that many people who own short-term rentals are unaware that permits are required and that recent public discussions on this issue have led to an increase in applications. While the recent ruling blocks further new applications, the current backlog of completed submissions will move forward without being affected by the moratorium.

When asked how Jefferson County will regulate future short-term rentals, Dean and others have referred to agreements that larger cities, such as San Francisco, have made with the online rental agencies. In those contracts, the private entities (e.g., AirBNB) have agreed to only list properties that have permits with the local governments.

“San Francisco really paved the way in allowing local governments to regulate short-term rentals,” said Dean, adding that such agreements will enable Jefferson County to identify “the right mix” of STR numbers and locations.

Dean emphasized that whatever policy the county develops, fairness has to be a part of the equation. 

“Many homeowners who have a short-term rental associated with their property rely upon that income to pay mortgages. At the same time, people who use, for instance, AirBNB, rely upon Jefferson County’s services and infrastructure, and should pay an appropriate tax to offset those uses. It’s only fair.”

Public participation will continue to play a role in the review process. The next opportunity for community input will be May 1 when Chief Strategy Officer Brent Butler will present a summary of the public meetings held in March to the Jefferson County Planning Commission.