They’re out there, guests are paying fees and filling rooms. But Enumclaw hasn’t addressed the growing trend of short-term rentals.
That is changing, though there’s no clear indication which way the seven members of the Enumclaw City Council might be leaning. To gather community input, the council hosted a public hearing the evening of Feb. 10, attracting several citizens choosing to weigh in on the subject.
By way of background: Enumclaw presently has provisions in its Municipal Code relating to bed-and-breakfast operations and staff has suggested amendments that would allow for short-term rentals (Airbnb, for example).
In a memo to council, it was noted that the city’s Comprehensive Plan includes policies that support such changes. Specifically, Community Development Director Chris Pasinetti pointed to the stated goal of increasing tourist visits.
Items that would allow for short-term rentals (STRs) were reviewed by the city Planning Commission in July and August of 2019 and were sent to a subcommittee for further scrutiny in November. The Commission returned to topic in January and, by a 5-1 margin, recommended approval of an ordinance allowing short-term rentals.
During the council’s meeting on Feb. 10, Pasinetti noted a significant difference between bed-and-breakfast rules and the proposed short-term rental stipulations. Namely, a bed-and-breakfast is allowed in the city’s residential zones, as long as the “operator of the facility” lives on the property. As proposed for short-term rentals, the owner would not be required to be on-site.
But there are a number of requirements, as proposed. Among those are:
■ a requirement for a business license and administrative fee;
■ a short-term rental could be used for a maximum of 90 days per calendar year;
■ each STR must have a designated representative that is available around the clock, seven days a week, and able to respond to complaints in a timely manner;
■ the owner must notify (by mail) all neighbors, providing contact information of the representative;
■ an STR property cannot be used for weddings, banquets, receptions or the like.
Additionally, the proposals forwarded to the council limit short-term rentals to Enumclaw’s “old town overlay” zone. That zone takes in a swath through the heart of town, bounded on the east by Railroad Street and on the west by Myrtine Street; the zone stops at Kibler Avenue on the north and Roosevelt Avenue on the south.
Among those addressing the council on the Feb. 10 was Vicky Clemens who, with her husband, owns a pair of Airbnb units on Wells Street. “I’m here to put a face on short-term rentals,” she told the council.
Lodging is needed in Enumclaw, she said, noting their units are filled by visitors to Crystal Mountain, the Expo Center or White River Amphitheatre. Her guests, Clemens added, benefit the city when they purchase food and drink, buy gas and use ride-share options.
A retired police officer noted he has lived next door to a short-term unit for four years, has had no issues, has met people from all over the world and constantly watches Clemens’ guests trek to nearby eateries.
Not all comments were positive, but the final speaker offered enthusiastic support for STRs. Ted deVol related that he frequently uses Airbnb rentals during business-related outings and “it’s incredible.”
His primary point was that the city should not limit short-term rentals to a small section of town. “If you’re going to do it, do it. Let people rent wherever,” he said. “I think you guys should just open it up.”
The public hearing did not include any action by the City Council. It is anticipated that the issue will be on a future agenda for consideration.