Dozens offer comments on short term rental regulations
A full house packed a Gig Harbor City Council meeting on Monday, Feb. 13, for a hearing on proposed new regulations on short term rentals.
About three dozen people spoke in person or via Zoom regarding the proposed regulations. Most opposed allowing short-term rentals, especially in residential neighborhoods.
No current regulations
The current city code does not specifically define or regulate short-term rentals. The city doesn’t even know how many operate within city limits. City staff estimates range from 30 to 70.
The issue has been on the council’s radar for more than 18 months.
The city previously applied a definition and permitting process known as Lodging Level 1 to short-term rentals. Lodging Level 1 refers to “a single family residence that provides overnight lodging for guests, and may provide meals for overnight guests, not to exceed five guest rooms.”
That definition better describes a bed-and-breakfast than a short term rental, which might be occupied by renters for several weeks or months.
In September 2021, the council issued an emergency moratorium on accepting any new applications for Lodging Level 1 permits. The moratorium has been extended twice while the city studied its options.
The current moratorium expires March 12.
City staff received more than 350 written comments about short-term rentals since the council enacted the moratorium.
The regulations discussed this week allow short term rentals, but limit their number. They attempts to “maintain and protect the integrity of Gig Harbor’s single-family neighborhoods from inundation by transient lodging uses.” The ordinance is designed to maintain the availability of long-term rentals and homes.
The proposed ordinance defines short-term rentals as those offered to guests for fewer than 30 consecutive nights.
It also outlines the procedure for obtaining a permit, including a requirement that the owner have a Gig Harbor business license.
The ordinance also establishes a tracking system and requires city staff to provide the council with quarterly reports. The ordinance will be reviewed after one year.
Gig Harbor resident Lynn Stevenson said she spoke on behalf of seven neighbors opposed to short-term rentals. Many others made similar comments on Monday.
Residential zoning should maintain a sense of community within neighborhoods and ensure that adequate housing is available, Stevenson said.
“Residential zones are for residents, not transients,” she said. “A resident is someone who resides here. They call their space ‘home.’ They know and respect their neighbors. They can vote. They have an investment in the community whether they are property owners or long-term tenants.”
Others opponents said they “don’t want to live next to a hotel.’’ They want to know their neighbors and “not live in a transient type of neighborhood.”
Several who spoke in favor of short-term rentals said the opposition was “doing a lot of fear-mongering” and that the city was “trying to legislate a problem that doesn’t exist.”
Some called the proposed permitting process too complicated and said it will discourage anyone from owning an short-term rental.
Others said short-term rentals are an important source of income for people with limited financial resources.
Council members asked staff to research possible restrictions on corporations from owning short-term rentals.
The council is scheduled to vote on the ordinance at its next meeting on Feb. 27.