TRPA told to back off on vacation home rentals

Many seemed to agree Friday the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency should not have the power to determine if a home can be used as a vacation rental.

Dave Solaro, chairman of the TRPA Governing Board, started off the meeting with a list of recommendations that stated that regulations for vacation rentals should be drafted by local governments, not TRPA.

Public debate on the issue erupted again at the end of July when the TRPA informed local government jurisdictions it was going to try to enforce laws it has had on the books for years. Zoning laws affect vacation rentals, but were never enforced.

"Staff at the TRPA is limited," Solaro said. "To take on another job detracts from the Environmental Improvement Program and other issues. We've got some big issues out there to protect the lake. I don't want this to become one of them."

At the time, Solaro was a member of TRPA's Local Government Committee, not the chairman of the Governing Board. The five other Governing Board members supported Solaro's recommendations. They asked TRPA staff to bring them before the Governing Board this month or next.

TRPA deputy director Carl Hasty said the meeting the issue could not simply be resolved by the agency taking a hands-off approach.

"This was a recommendation out of the Local Government Committee," Hasty said. "The full board has to hear the full story. While there is a desire for the issue to be addressed by local government, there is still a relationship with land-use planning, and TRPA needs to be a part of the process."

The Governing Board meeting that deals with the vacation rental issue will be pivotal, said Duane Wallace, executive director of the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce.

"The local elected government has said this is what we want," he said. "What an indictment of how far they have strayed from their mission (if the Governing Board rejects that).

The agency revisited its regulations that apply to vacation home rentals in June after a lawyer representing the Zephyr Heights General Improvement District presented the issue at a Governing Board meeting.

She said 17 complaints about homes being used as vacation rentals in a residential area had been ignored by TRPA staff. The attorney said she had taken up the issue with the Douglas County Commission, but the commission deferred, saying it was the TRPA's jurisdiction.

About a month later, the TRPA issued a bulletin to local government agencies explaining its zoning rules. A residential building permit will not be issued unless the property owner promises not to use the structure as a tourist accommodation. That rule does not apply if the rental is for less than two weeks, four times a year.

Dennis Crabb, a South Lake Tahoe attorney representing the Vacation Rental Issues Working Group, spoke about the TRPA zoning rules Friday. He said there would be legal consequences if the TRPA continued on a path to enforce the old zoning laws, which do not even include the phrase "vacation rental."

"We fully support Mr. Solaro's proposed recommendations," Crabb said. "TRPA's role here should be as a resource to local government. Not to make housing decisions for local government."

Crabb said the drafting of any new regulations must be "a full, open deliberative process, and all the stakeholders have to be involved."


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