PORT TOWNSEND — After months of discussion and deliberation, the Port Townsend City Council will have its first opportunity to take action on an ordinance updating the city code on short term rental properties at tonight’s council meeting.
The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers in Historic City Hall, 540 Water St.
After a staff presentation on the proposed ordinance will be a public hearing. The council will then deliberate and perhaps take action.
Should the ordinance pass, the council also is expected to lift a 180-day moratorium on permits for tourist homes and bed and breakfasts.
The moratorium was put in place on March 20 and extended to include bed and breakfasts on April 17 to ensure that all new permits on processes under the updated short-term rental codes.
Although the council has worked for months on the ordinance with the help of the city’s planning commission staff, the proposed ordinance doesn’t make any major changes to the code, according to City Manager David Timmons.
“The primary changes are it doesn’t allow properties to be converted into non-owner occupied vacation homes,” Timmons said.
Short-term rentals are defined in the city code as accommodations rented for fewer than 30 days. In Port Townsend that includes motels, bed and breakfasts and tourist homes, which are properties occupied by the owner but partially rented out on a short-term basis.
Short-term rentals are popular in Port Townsend, especially in the summer, since it is a popular tourist destination. However, Timmons said city officials are concerned that the popularity of short-term rentals is hurting the city by taking away affordable housing options from residents.
The proposed ordinance also clarifies some of the more confusing portions of the code.
One of the more sticky points was what exactly constitutes a kitchen and whether kitchens should be allowed in tourist homes.
The council did eventually agree to keep the ban on kitchens in tourist homes but allow such appliances as a small refrigerator and a microwave for guests to use.
The bulk of the council’s discussions and deliberations over the past three months has been on these details like kitchens.
“We cleared up a lot of inconsistencies in the code,” Timmons said. “The main change though is we’re not allowing non-owner occupied vacation rentals.”