San Juan County Council calls for vacation rental moratorium

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Submitted by The Vacation Rental Working Group

The Vacation Rental Working Group (VRWG) was highly pleased today when the San Juan County Council unanimously approved an Immediate Moratorium on the issuance of new vacation rental permits, effective 12:01 AM January 13, 2021, for a period of six months.

“We wish to extend our thanks and appreciation to the County Council for opening its 2021 legislative session with decisive action on one of our community’s most pervasive problems,” said Yonatan Aldort, Chair of the VRWG. “The real work now begins.”

“The moratorium has always been a means to an end,” Yonatan added, “with that end being meaningful and sensible regulation of Vacation Rentals. That is the task which lies ahead for council, county staff, and our community.”

VRWG Vice Chair Lisa Byers shared Yonatan’s enthusiasm, saying, “Over 3,000 concerned individuals signed our petition asking for this moratorium and today they got it. And, yes, we have a lot more work to do as we craft specific regulations to address this complex but eminently solvable problem.”

Likely to be a priority for the new Council are proposals to place an upper limit or cap on the total number of VR permits in the county and an enforcement provision requiring revocation of a permit following “three strikes’ or validated complaints. The VRWG has offered to convene a community-based forum or task force to assist the county’s analysis.

The VRWG has presented the county with an initial proposal including specific language for regulatory relief. Link to initial proposal:

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5d391d3008b46a0001a89b71/t/5e07cfb541180e2960cf4aeb/1577570231163/2019-12-18-Ltr+from+VR+Work+Group+to+County+Council.pdf

In 2019, the VRWG and the Eastsound and Deer Harbor Plan Review Committees’ advisory panels requested a moratorium on new vacation rental permits. Such a moratorium would serve to buy time for consideration of substantive reforms. In November of 2020, the San Juan Planning Commission produced its own report language calling for change along the same lines as the VRWG.

The VRWG initiated an on-line petition in support of the moratorium that has approximately 3,000 signatories.

About the Vacation Rental Working Group

The VRWG is an all-volunteer organization formed in June 2019 to mobilize our community in order to regulate vacation rentals in a manner that protects our rural character, environment and culture in the San Juan Islands. See https://www.vacationrentalsorcas.org/.