Community Government

City Council again extends moratorium on new short-term rentals

Posted on September 14th, 2022 By:

The Gig Harbor City Council on Monday voted unanimously to extend a moratorium on new applications for short-term rentals in the city. The extension spans another six months.

Residents on both sides of the issue provided extensive comments at Monday’s meeting. The issue has been a topic of conversation for more than a year.

The council first passed the moratorium on Sept. 13, 2021. In March, the council extended the moratorium through Sept. 28.

This latest extension will be in effect through March 2023. Yet city staff thinks it could end in January, if their tentative schedule for research, analysis and public hearings holds true.

No current zoning regulations

According to Principal Planner Carl de Simas, the city doesn’t have specific zoning regulations for — or even a definition of — short-term rentals. They have become increasingly popular with property owners.

Currently short-term rentals fall under the land-use designation of Lodging, Level 1: “A single-family residence which provides overnight lodging for guests, and may provide meals for overnight guests, not to exceed five guest rooms.”

But that doesn’t jibe with the standard definition of a short-term rental or short-term vacation rental: “Typically a dwelling unit, whereby the owner/operator does not reside on the premises, rather they rent the property, on the whole, for a period not to exceed 30-days.”

In the state’s definition, “short-term rental” means a lodging that is not a hotel, motel or bed and breakfast, but that is offered to a guest by a short-term rental operator for a fee for fewer than 30 consecutive nights.

But there are several situations the state’s definition doesn’t cover.

It doesn’t include a dwelling unit that is occupied by the owner for at least six months during the calendar year and in which fewer than three rooms are rented at any time. Or a dwelling unit that is used by the same person for 30 or more consecutive nights. Or one that is operated by a a charity that provides temporary housing to people being treated for trauma, injury, or disease.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that city staff doesn’t know how many unpermitted short-term rentals are already operating in the city limits, or their impact on the community, de Simas said.

Another factor is a recent decision by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans that city staff and the city attorney want to study. Hence the need to extend the current moratorium for another six months.

The city will continue to accept public comment and there will be more public hearings during the moratorium.