Planning commission to discuss vacation rental regulation

By Steve Guntli


The Whatcom County Planning Commission is looking for public input on a proposal to regulate vacation rental properties.

On Thursday, January 8, the commission will hear the second round of public comments before passing its recommendations on to Whatcom County Council. The commission first heard comments at its regular meeting on December 11.

County council first discussed the regulations in September, in response to complaints from residents regarding loud parties being held in rental homes on Lake Whatcom.

Vacation rentals are not defined in the county zoning code, so the properties are not subject to the same rules regarding maximum occupancy, overflow parking or noise levels as a single-family residence or a bed-and-breakfast. The state views short-term rentals as business activities and requires owners to obtain business licenses and submit lodging taxes. Any owner of a single family home can rent out his or her property.

The council recommended amending the code to define short-term rental properties as an accepted use with conditional standards, and sent it to the planning commission to review. If enacted, the new zoning regulations would treat vacation rental properties as bed-and-breakfasts, and would only be allowed in areas of the county zoned for those facilities.

Short-term rental properties have been growing in popularity in the last few years. Whatcom County has dozens of the properties, with heavy concentration in areas like Lake Whatcom and Birch Bay.

The public hearing will take place Thursday, January 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the Northwest Annex conference room, 5280 Northwest Drive, Bellingham.

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