Jefferson County to start crafting short-term rental rules

Recommendations expected this summer

PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County is looking to update its regulations concerning short-term rentals with hopes of updating the county code later this year.

Discussions are set to begin later this month.

Josh Peters, the county’s Department of Community Development director, told the three commissioners Monday the planning commission would begin crafting recommendations for a potential ordinance on STRs at its July 17 meeting.

“Our intention is for the proposed regulations to go through the planning commission process and bring it to the board before the end of the year,” Peters said.

That could be in late August or early September, he said.

Peters said the county planning commission is “just this close” to producing recommendations for regulating STRs that could potentially turn into an ordinance.

Once presented to the board, commissioners can choose to accept the planning commission’s recommendations or pass their own ordinance.

On Monday, the three commissioners took public feedback on a one-year moratorium on permit applications for new STRs passed by commissioners in April and again in June. The moratorium was an effort to establish some control over the STR market after county data showed there may be as many as 500 unpermitted STRs in the county, Peters said.

The moratorium was passed following a series of public meetings in March during which many STR owners said they were unaware a permit was needed.

Short-term rentals are properties that are rented for 30 days or fewer and have grown in popularity thanks to online platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo. Many communities have passed laws limiting or even banning STRs, citing their disruption to local housing markets.

“We do not relish doing moratoria,” Dstrict 1 Commissioner Kate Dean said. “It’s not the intent to make it difficult for people to develop their property. But when there’s enough lack of clarity and collective unease about something, it’s a great way to hit the pause button.”

Only two people gave public comment Monday. Shellie Yarnell of Brinnon said she had concerns about enforcement given the county’s already high caseload.

“There were lots of questions and lots of things that, to me, still have a big impact on what you’re looking to do,” Yarnell said. “I think that there’s lots of information that needs to be tightened up.”

Currently permitted STRs will not be impacted by the moratorium, Peters said, but those owners will be subject to any new health and safety standards that may be implemented in a future ordinance.

Public feedback on the moratorium so far has been limited, Peters said, but many residents have been engaged with the rulemaking process since March.

“This is all pre-planning for a proposal,” Peters said. “The next part of the process is to actually condense everything that we’ve heard into an ordinance.”


Reporter Peter Segall can be reached by email at

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