Port Townsend council OKs short-term rental changes, with final approval to be considered next week

PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend City Council approved on a first reading a city ordinance that changes parts of the city code regarding short-term rentals, specifically bed-and-breakfasts and tourist homes.

The changes don’t apply to hotels or motels.

A number of amendments were made to the ordinance during Monday’s meeting. The council also voted to keep the public record open so written testimony and public comment are still accepted on this issue.

Amendments to the ordinance will be posted before the second reading — when the council can give its final approval — which is scheduled for the next council meeting at 540 Water St. at 6:30 p.m. this coming Monday.

The new ordinance changes some of the language around short-term rentals. For one, short-term rentals will now replace what was referred to as transient accommodations in the current city code.

Short-term rentals refer to rooms rented for less than 30 days.

The ordinance also changes the definition of tourist homes.

“We narrowed the definition to state a tourist home is the primary residence of the owner and which offers no more than two rooms to transient guests,” said Lance Bailey, director of development services.

Councilman David Faber asked for an amendment specifying that both tourist homes and bed-and-breakfasts would require the guest rooms to be accessed only through the main residence, rather than a separate entrance.

“My concern is it is a way to skirt around the issue of an unauthorized ADU [accessory dwelling unit] one, but also not having a short-term rental in ADUs,” Faber said.

Councilman Robert Gray was concerned this change would require people to remodel their homes to comply with the new code changes.

The amendment passed with only Gray opposed. Councilwoman Michelle Sandoval was not present at Monday’s meeting.

The ordinance also requires that all short-term rentals have a business license, which must be displayed on any advertisements for the rental. Bailey said that makes enforcing short-term rental regulations easier for the city.

“It’s difficult for anyone trying to do code enforcement to do any kind of enforcement,” Bailey said.

Faber added an amendment to this that would specify that the business license would be required to be posted with online listings, like those on Airbnb and VRBO.

The ordinance would require that bed-and-breakfasts and tourist homes be the main residence of the owner and the owner must be present while guests are present.

Those applying for tourist home applications must prove that they own and live in the residence they intend to use as a rental.

The ordinance also bars short-term rentals in ADUs and would not allow full kitchens within the rental units, though microwaves and mini-fridges would be allowed.

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at cmcfarland@peninsuladailynews.com.

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