Windsor council approves emergency moratorium on vacation rentals

Windsor City Council, in a 4-0 vote with one member absent, passed an emergency moratorium on all new short-term rentals in town on Wednesday.

The 45-day ban, which takes effect immediately, means Windsor will temporarily stop issuing business permits for new short-term rentals, but pending applications can still be approved.

At the start of the pandemic, many local governments chose to suspend efforts to regulate short-term rentals due to the increased need for available housing for essential workers or those most vulnerable to COVID-19.

Now that many of the safeguards put in place to curb the spread of the virus are no longer in effect, local governments are more than ready to consider regulations for such properties.

Windsor is the third local government this month, behind Sonoma County and the City of Santa Rosa, to put in place preliminary guidelines as it considers permanent regulations for vacation rentals within its jurisdiction.

On August 9, Santa Rosa leaders approved emergency guidelines that set capacity limits for the number of non-hosted short-term rentals that can exist in the city, which joins previous rules dictating where rentals can operate, who can own these properties and how much, set noise limits, prohibit the use of rentals for events, and set fire safety requirements.

Sonoma County passed measures Aug. 2 that updated existing limits on where vacation rentals can operate and capped them in other areas, amended existing policies on the coast, while allowing pending requests to continue through the process.

Windsor’s temporary moratorium will likely be extended to give city staff more time to research and prepare an ordinance regulating these types of tenancies under the city’s housing element. This document, which will deal with all housing types in Windsor, should be ready by January.

The council could have chosen to impose a moratorium only on company-owned or non-hosted short-term rentals (the owner does not live there), but chose to approve the full moratorium.

A number of property owners – ranging from empty nesters with available space to those who have specifically bought homes to use as investment properties – spoke to members of Windsor Council on Wednesday, either in person or via Zoom.

They’ve also listened to complaints from angry residents, like Louise Turner, who said they didn’t buy their home years ago to turn their neighbor’s house into a vacation rental.

“We’re not hotels,” Turner said. “We bought our homes in good faith.”

Acknowledging a therapist’s point that travel is good for mental health, Turner then retorted, “What about our mental health?”

Some residents said they’ve never had a problem with a short-term rental in their neighborhood, while others shared stories of noisy gatherings around pools, visitors coming and going repeatedly, as well as maid services which always seemed to be in and out. out.

Lisa Trumbley, who has lived in her home for two years, expressed concern for the safety of children playing in the neighborhood.

Property managers, some of whom are residents or former residents who lost their homes to wildfires, pointed out that there is a difference between “hobbyist” management and professional management.

“I am sympathetic to landlords who have had a bad experience with a poorly managed short-term rental,” said Dan Godino, a landlord who said he manages multiple properties in the county. “The noise can be monitored…and an SMS sent to the guest” to silence them.

All board members, minus absent board member Deb Fudge, who is traveling out of the country, said they learned a lot from the people who spoke, as well as the dozens of emails the board received. on this subject.

Council member Mike Wall said he found “a stark contrast” between corporate-owned short-term rentals and those living in Windsor. He said he opposed “a faceless entity seeking to profit off the backs of the residents of Windsor”.

Wall and Vice Mayor Esther Lemus said they support “more aggressive” tax collection from owners of short-term rentals.

You can reach editor Kathleen Coates at [email protected] or 707-521-5209.

About Michael B. Billingsley

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