Short-term rental code goes before Port Townsend planning commission tonight

The board will conduct a public hearing at 6:30 p.m.

PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend Planning Commission will hear public comment and consider a recommendation about short-term and vacation rental code tonight.

The planning commission will conduct the public hearing during a meeting that will begin at 6:30 p.m. in City Council chambers at historic City Hall, 540 Water St. It expects to finalize a recommendation to the City Council for action.

Currently, short-term rentals are defined as rentals for 29 days or less. Under the city code, rentals with an owner present — such as bed-and-breakfast inns — are allowed in residential areas.

However, non-owner-occupied rentals, which would include homeowners who rent their homes using popular sites such as Airbnb and VRBO, are currently not allowed in residential areas.

The planning commission is recommending that the rules remain the same and that the city continue to ban non-owner-occupied short-term rentals, according to a memo sent out along with today’s agenda.

Public testimony will be allowed on this topic, both written and in person. Currently on the docket are written testimonies from Garden Cottage owner Heidi Morgan and Airbnb’s Tamara Alrwais, the U.S. west program coordinator.

The planning commission also will discuss the shortening of buffer zones around marijuana dispensaries and certain protected areas such as public transit centers.

This will be the second time the commission will discuss this topic, but no action will be taken during today’s meeting.

According to city Planning Director Lance Bailey, while transient housing is listed on today’s planning commission agenda, that will not be the topic of discussion.

“Currently, the word ‘transient’ is being used in the city code for short-term rentals,” Bailey said.

“That’s confusing, I know, and something we will work on changing since the word ‘transient’ does come with some other connotations.”

The City Council plans to discuss tent encampments and homeless housing as related to the city’s comprehensive plan Sept. 15.

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