Whitefish council to talk short-term rental changes

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Changes to short-term rental regulations and a proposed 14-lot subdivision on Colorado Avenue take top billing at the Whitefish City Council meeting on Monday, Feb. 5.

Homeowners who rent only a portion of their home as a vacation rental will face stiffer rules as the city considers changes to short-term rental rules following a public hearing on the proposed changes. An updated definition will require the rental of a bedroom within a home for less than 30 days as a short-term rental subject to the full application process. Previously the definition required the entire dwelling be rented to be considered a short-term rental.

Whitefish developed rules for vacation rentals in 2013 to mitigate the impact on neighbors and provide tools to aid in the enforcement of illegal rentals. In Whitefish, vacation rentals are allowed only in certain resort and commercial zoning districts.

The Whitefish Planning Board last month recommended approval of the changes in rental rules, and added two additional standards, including providing proof of state registration for bed tax and requiring short-term rental permits be issued “only to a natural person” rather than a corporation or limited liability company.

The city planning staff said it is not comfortable adding the “natural person” standard because “there are many reasons why one may not want to place property in their personal name, such as protecting themselves from personal liability, estate planning, joint ownership and other tax purposes,” a planning staff report pointed out. The planning staff is recommending that standard not be adopted.

Cloud 9 Ranch is asking for preliminary-plan approval of a 14-lot subdivision at 633 Colorado Ave. The site is currently developed with a single-family home that will remain on one of the lots. The property has two-family residential district zoning and is designated as urban in the city growth policy. A public hearing will be held on the subdivision request.

A public hearing also will be held on a request from Gordon Tait for a major lakeshore variance to dredge 1.3 acres of the Lazy Bay Channel at the north end of Whitefish Lake near Delrey Road.

A resolution approving changes to the business license fee structure and an increase in business license fees and short-term rental application fee will be considered following a public hearing. Business license fees have not increased since 1983.

Home-occupation business licenses are proposed to increase from $15 to $35, while contractor license fees are proposed to jump from $30 to $70.

Short-term rental fees would increase various amounts, depending on the size of home. The short-term rental fee for a home encompassing 2,000 to 5,999 square feet would increase from $70 to $130. The fee for homes over 10,000 square feet would increase from $100 to $190.

During a work session from 5 to 7 p.m. the council will get an update and discuss the strategic housing plan, an LED street light upgrade and the urban growth boundary for the city’s extension of services plan. A draft study of the area boundary and steering committee mock-up for a city-driven U.S. 93 South corridor plan is also on the work-session agenda.

The council meets in regular session at 7:10 p.m. Both the work session and regular meeting will be held at Whitefish City Hall.

Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or lhintze@dailyinterlake.com.

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