Port Angeles approves limited ban on new STRs

No impact on existing short-term rentals

PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles City Council approved on a 4-3 vote a limited moratorium on the development of new short-term rental housing that will go into effect this coming Friday.

The limited moratorium approved Tuesday specifically limits the development of new short-term rentals (STRs) in areas zoned Residential Medium Density and Residential High Density. It does not impact existing STRS that are in compliance with current zoning requirements.

Voting in favor of the limited moratorium were Mayor Kate Dexter and council members Navarra Carr, Amy Miller and LaTrisha Suggs. Opposed to it were Deputy mayor Brendan Meyer and council members Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin and Charlie McCaughan.

Constituents both for and against a moratorium on STRS packed into city hall on Tuesday night.

The council previously discussed a moratorium on STRs during a May 2 meeting where in council directed city staff to provide a draft moratorium on new STRs that rent the entire housing unit and are available more than 30 days per year.

Staff brought back three options, but its preferred recommendation for the council was to table the conversation and public hearing.

“Staff’s recommendation is that we get additional data and information prior to moving forward,” City Manager Nathan West said.

The other two options were a full moratorium on the development of new STRs across the city and the ultimately approved limited moratorium.

McCaughan moved to table the discussion until the council had more information on the impact of STR. That was seconded by Meyer. It failed and the public hearing carried on.

Suggs urged approval of a limited moratorium, recognizing the importance of STRs in commercial areas as part of city tourism while also recognizing the need for more data on the impact of STRs on housing stock.

“I really like the idea of a limited moratorium because it would address new STRs in residential areas but at the same time preserve the opportunities for those with STRs in those zones to come into compliance,” Suggs said.

The city has hired GovOS to conduct data collection and research on the impact of STRs on the current housing stock. The council expects to hear results of the data collection in March 2024 at which time it would re-examine the moratorium and its current policy regarding STRs.

Schromen-Wawrin advocated for the full moratorium allowing not only time for data collection, but also for a new policy to be developed around STRs without worrying about them popping up and aiming to be grandfathered in.

“We have a current policy on STRs, which is that they are allowed in some zones of the city, but they’re not allowed in other zones of the city,” Schromen-Wawrin said.

“Most of our STRs are operating illegally, about 20 legal and 200 illegal,” he added, saying current policy was not written by the current council.

He brought up the issue of enforcement.

“There is a backlog in code enforcement because the city cut the budget in 2012, ” he said. “We brought it back in 2019, and then COVID happened, so there’s a lot to do.”

Schromen-Wawrin also said he would like to change current policy.

“Staff is beginning to work on that policy and it should be ready next year. So this is about what we do in the meantime?” Schromen-Wawrin said.

The council heard from a number of members of the public, many of whom were owners of STRS adamantly opposed to the moratorium.

“What bothered me is the assumption that anyone can start a successful short-term rental,” Chelsea Winfield said.

It takes constant work from owners, she said.

”It’s not a quick buck.”

“I think what you’re going to see is a market change,” Winfield said. “We have over 900 STRs in the county during peak season. During the slow season it drops and those STRS become homes for medical professionals, education professionals, people coming to visit family in off-seasons.

“I really want to encourage the council to get more data and to talk to the people that own and run STR.”

Karen Unger, a local defense lawyer also commented ,noting that the work that goes into making STRs successful would not make them affordable as long-term rentals.

“I think that it is unfortunate that in the issue of STRs, there is some belief that if there is a moratorium and the brakes are put on that the housing crises will be addressed … I would surmise that many of these STRS are not affordable to provide the kinds of housing the council needs to consider and be concerned about,” Unger said.

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Reporter Ken Park can be reached a kpark@peninsuladailynews.com

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