Whitefish passes ordinance on short and medium term rentals


Whitefish city council last week voted unanimously to approve an ordinance that will put in place zoning requirements for certain rentals leased for periods between 30 and 90 days.

The ordinance requires that 30- to 90-day rentals that would qualify as “medium-term rentals” be located in areas classified as resort residences, much like the zoning requirement for short-term rentals. City staff had proposed the proposed changes after being instructed to consider the matter by council following a report from the Sustainable Tourism Master Plan Committee.

Additionally, the ordinance adds more requirements for short-term rentals, including registration, increased fire inspections, and advertising requirements, which Taylor said would add more tools for rental. ‘application.

Board member Rebecca Norton expressed concerns about the speed of implementation and the financial effect it could have on the people and businesses renting the affected properties. Council therefore agreed that the implementation of the mid-term rental aspect of the ordinance would take place in one year, with council Steve Qunell expressing interest in considering the possibility of varying the ordinance in the meantime. Qunell had said he believed the ordinance was necessary, but was particularly concerned with how he viewed the ordinance creating a situation in which certain people, tourists or remote workers, would be viewed as different classes. and therefore treated differently when they came. to rentals.

Part of the ordinance creates the definition of a “medium-term” rental, which is the rental of a “fully furnished private house, condominium unit, apartment or other residence in tourists and remote workers for stays between 30 and 90 days without the intention of renting to the same individual or group for long-term accommodation.

The definition of medium-term rental would not apply to long-term month-to-month rentals to individuals or families, or rentals of less than 90 days to local workers.

“There are websites that are popping up that specifically target mid-term rentals, that’s a market for that. We’re going to make sure they’re relegated to areas where short-term rentals are only allowed, so they don’t take some of our other rentals, ”Planning and Construction Manager Dave said. Taylor, at a conference on December 6. board meeting where board began discussing the ordinance and hearing public comment before continuing to the most recent board meeting.

Taylor later added that the ordinance could have unintended consequences for people who are not year round residents “but on the other hand, it will improve our ability to enforce short-term rentals and short-term rentals. medium term rentals in areas where it should be long term. fixed-term rental.

Various landlords, landlords and property management professionals have spoken out against the proposal, with most of their concerns regarding the definition and requirements for medium term rental. Among the opponents was Kalispell resident and president of the Montana Landlords Association, John Sinrud, who argued that the council is trying to regulate things that can only legally be regulated by the state.

City attorney Angela Jacobs has expressed concerns about state law that could restrict the city’s ability to regulate homeowners.

“While I think we are definitely a charter city with autonomous powers, I have concerns about telling owners how long they can rent places, and again I’m very concerned. by trying to apply something like a kind of term lease, ”she said.

Among those who spoke in favor of the ordinance was Mariah Joos, chair of the board of directors of Explore Whitefish and a member of the sustainable tourism master plan committee.

“I think we all realize that Whitefish has long had a dedicated pool of second home owners, visitors who became part-time residents when they were here and treated our community with the respect and care that we. also do as full time residents. The problem we are facing now is speculative real estate, and that is having an effect on all of us, ”she said.

Continuing, she said that the “capitalist forces” at play viewed people as bad actors unfairly, but that “really the only way to combat all kinds of these capitalist forces is through legislation, and often it is afterwards. does, and it is never a perfect solution to the problem at hand. You’re sort of trying to put the cats back in bags.

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