Weigh in on proposed vacation rental regs at March 13 public hearing

One of several new requirements under consideration for vacation rentals would have  permits expire in two years if a current certificate of compliance was not on file with the county. Other changes under consideration  require life and safety certification, inclusion of permit numbers in advertising, and provision of maps to renters that show the vacation rental's boundaries. A $2,300 penalty for unpermitted rentals is also proposed.

According to the county, this map shows the location of parcels as assigned on vacation rental permits since 1990. Mapped locations are not the actual locations of rental houses. This is not an exhaustive list of permits and there may be vacation rental permits not shown on the map. This map does not include permits for hotels, motels, resorts, or bed and breakfasts.

San Juan County Council will hold a public hearing  during the 9:15 a.m. time block  Tuesday, March 13 in the Legislative Building at 55 Second Street in Friday Harbor. The hearing on the new regulations is the third public hearing Tuesday morning and is followed by a hearing on the new enforcement rules. 

New Requirements 

• This is a new provision that applies to vacation rental permits vested or approved after the effective date of the ordinance. Under this provision, a vacation rental would expire two years after the date of approval if a current certificate of compliance is not kept on file with the administrator. Alternative L would not apply to permits vested or approved prior to the effective date of the ordinance. Alternatives L1 and L2 would apply this requirement to new and existing vacation rental permits by December 31, 2023.

• Requires solid waste to be removed from the vacation rental to an approved facility on a bi-weekly (every two weeks) basis, and requires the use of secured garbage receptacles outdoors or indoor. This is a new requirement.

• Requires owners of vacation rentals to make their guests aware of the importance of water conservation and to include best practices to conserve water in their rules of conduct. This is a new requirement.

• Requires the property management plan to have a copy of the approved rules of conduct in it. This is a new requirement, although the rules of conduct are not a new requirement.

• Requires the property management plan to include the UBI number in addition to the names and addresses of owners and agents for the vacation rental. The requirement for a UBI number is new.

• Requires the property management plan for each vacation rental to have a local property representative designated who lives on the island where the vacation rental is located. The local property representative is required to respond to emergencies and complaints. This is a new requirement.

• Requires the property management plan to include a valid telephone number where the local property representative can be reached 24 hours per day. The requirement for a 24-hour telephone number is not new, the requirement that there be a local property representative is new.

• Requires the rules of conduct and map of the property boundaries be posted. This is a new requirement. Currently a map is required only if there is access to the shoreline.

• Requires that the San Juan County permit number for the vacation rental be included in all advertisements. This is a new requirement.

• Requires that permit holders annually certify compliance with their permit conditions and the fire and life safety requirements of the International Fire Code (IFC) and post the certification on-site. This is a new requirement.

• Requires that a certification of compliance with permit conditions be submitted within 90 days of sale or transfer of the property. This is a new requirement.

• Requires the holders of vacation rental permits approved prior to the effective date of the ordinance to comply with the operational requirements of section (K) by December 31, 2018. This is a new requirement.

• A new Council alternative L1 is provided that requires that owners of vacation rentals vested or approved prior to the effective date of the ordinance to comply with all provisions of the new standards by December 31, 2023. This is a new requirement.

• A new Council alternative L2 is provided that requires that owners of vacation rentals vested or approved prior to the effective date of the ordinance to revise their permits to comply with all of the provisions by December 31, 2023. This is a new requirement.

• Prohibits advertising a vacation rental without a vacation rental permit. This is a new requirement.

Changes that clarify current regulations:  

• The occupancy of vacation rentals is changed from three persons per bedroom to two persons per bedroom, plus three guests. A guest is defined as a person over the age of 2. The number of bedrooms is clarified to mean the bedrooms per approved building permit for the structure. This change is intended to address conflicts between sewage disposal requirements and land use regulations.

• The changes to the requirements make clear what is considered an “unreasonable disturbance to area residents” to include trespassing, noise, speeding and off-site parking issues. Current adopted code is difficult to enforce because “unreasonable disturbance to area residents” is not defined. The proposed amendments will make the requirements clearer, and more predictable and enforceable.

• Changes the on-site parking requirement to be one per bedroom. Currently a vacation rental located outside of an activity center or urban growth area is required to have two on-site parking spaces regardless of the number of bedrooms in the vacation rental or the number of guests.

• Clarifies the existing food service requirement. The code as currently written and implemented defines a vacation rental that provides food service as a “Bed and Breakfast Establishment” and not as a vacation rental. The amended text makes clear that a vacation rental permit holder cannot provide food service and still be considered a vacation rental.

• Requires vacation rental permit holders to display the address of the residence so that is it clearly visible from the street or access road. The current code does not allow any signage.

• Additional examples of required licenses and taxes have been added.

• Requires the owners of all vacation rental permits to keep an up-to-date property management plan on file with the Community Development Department and with neighboring properties within 300 feet of the building within which the vacation rental is located. The current code requires that the property management plan be sent to all neighboring properties within 300 feet of the property boundaries.

Summary of Changes resulting from the ordinance amending code enforcement regulations:

Amends the intent of the code enforcement regulations to allow an immediate penalty can be imposed in some instances.

Requires a new monetary penalty of $2,300 for the first notice of violation and $100 per day of operation thereafter for operation of an unpermitted vacation rental. This provision is intended to reduce or eliminate unpermitted vacation rentals.

Amends the existing schedule of penalties for a notice of violation so that it does not apply to unpermitted vacation rentals because they are subject to a new and different penalty.

The process used: 

The Planning Commission was briefed on the initial draft in March 2017. The public hearing on that draft was held on April 21, 2017. On May 17, 2017, the Planning Commission deliberated and provided direction to staff to draft a Planning Commission public hearing draft and scheduled a public hearing for their draft proposal on July 21, 2017. 

On July 21, 2017, the Planning Commission held a hearing and recommended the following:

1. Community Development should prepare explanatory materials (including flowcharts) regarding the rules for the public and potential Vacation Rental owners.

2. The Planning Commission should revisit issues regarding where Vacation Rentals are to be allowed (zoning) and whether additional standards for approval of Vacation Rental applications by the Hearing Examiner are warranted as part of the Comprehensive Plan update.

3. The Planning Commission strongly recommends that the County Council should adopt the proposed enforcement provisions for operating vacation rentals without a permit as soon as possible AND no later than the effective date of the other proposed revisions to the Vacation Rental rules.

4. Recommend adoption of an ordinance amending the San Juan County Code (SJCC) for vacation rental of single family residences by amending SJCC sections 18.30.245, 18.30.310, 18.30.330, 18.30.430, 18.30.451, 18.30.550; Repealing and Replacing SJCC 18.40.270; and adding a new section to chapter 18.100 SJCC, as provided in the staff report dated July 11, 2017 and including the modifications and recommendations provided by the Planning Commission.

On August 28, 2017, the County Council reviewed the draft code amendments recommended by the Planning Commission and directed staff to draft ordinances to implement the code enforcement recommendations. On February 6, 2017, the County Council reviewed the draft code amendments including the code enforcement provisions, made changes to the proposed amendment language and scheduled a public hearing for March 13, 2018.


Staff report

Draft Ordinance

Draft Enforcement Ordinance

Staff report with strikeouts

Draft Certificate of Compliance form

1 comment

  • Sam jones Thursday, 08 March 2018 08:24 Comment Link

    1. Should only have 120 days to bring there properties into compliance.
    2. Set a fine on property management people say 500.00 as they represent the owner.For each property that they manage.
    3. Need yearly fire inspection. 1st time 100.00 yearly after that 50.00. Must be done by person with fire inspector certification and be on fire department.
    4. Enforce septic system inspection which are to be done yearly. Raise fines to 500.00 1st time 1500.00 after that for not being conforming.
    5. For problems that need sheriff department call out fine 150.00 to owner. Sheriff shell have right to lock down property for compliance and or unpaid fines.
    6. All fines to be paid within 30 days.
    7. Sheriff to keep their fines.
    8. Town code enforcement for septic to keep theirs.
    9. Fire department to keep theirs.
    10. Fines will help found their department helping to lower taxes.
    I see these as being good for san juan island as most vacation owners like to brag about all the money they make.


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