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County considering regulations on short-term rentals
Coconino County Board of Supervisors to hold public hearing Feb. 28

The city of Williams passed an emergency short-term rental ordinance last fall, and now the Coconino County Board of Supervisors is looking to establish a process, rules and standards for the short-term rental of residential properties in the county. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

The city of Williams passed an emergency short-term rental ordinance last fall, and now the Coconino County Board of Supervisors is looking to establish a process, rules and standards for the short-term rental of residential properties in the county. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

WILLIAMS Ariz. — Short-term rental properties in Coconino County may be facing some serious changes.

The Coconino County Board of Supervisors (BOS) provided direction in crafting and presenting a draft new ordinance regulating short-term rental properties in the county at the Jan. 24 board meeting.

The Board has acknowledged through public input that short-term rental properties have both positive and negative impacts on communities and requested the County’s Community Development Department and the County Attorney’s Office to draft an ordinance specific to Coconino County’s unincorporated communities and neighborhoods.

The major aspects of the first draft of the proposed ordinance are as follows:

• Allows Coconino County to require a permit for short-term rental properties and to collect up to $250 as a permit fee;

• Requires property owners to notify neighbors and to provide the county with an emergency point of contact;

• Requires the property owner to provide a transaction privilege tax license number;

• Provides definitions for verified violations of the ordinance and a process to suspend or revoke a short-term rental license based on verified violations;

• Prohibits property owners from allowing use of short-term rentals for special events or large gatherings that would have an adverse effect on a residential neighborhood;

• Requires property owners to maintain reasonable access for emergency services.

Short-term rentals have become a source of contention among some residents in the city of Williams and other parts of the state since Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed Senate Bill 1350 in 2016. The legislation prohibited cities, towns and counties from regulating short-term rentals of residential property.

A new Arizona state law, Senate Bill 1168, enacted by the State Legislature in 2022, gives local governments the legal authority to regulate short-term rental properties within their jurisdictions. The law was enacted to hold landlords accountable and prevent large groups from getting out of hand. The law does not require permits, but allows cities the option to create a permit and provide some regulations for short-term home rentals.

The purpose of Coconino County’s new ordinance is to establish a process, and develop rules and standards for the short-term rentas in the county.

“Until this last legislative session, Arizona law prohibited local communities from banning or limiting short term rentals,” stated Board Chair and District 1 Supervisor Patrice Horstman. “With local government’s hands tied, some rentals became party houses and board members received complaints regarding negative consequences to our quiet residential neighborhoods including noise, traffic, parking problems, litter and safety concerns. The changes to the law allow municipalities some limited oversight and the permitting of homes used for short term rentals.”

Other Board members present at the Jan. 24 meeting voiced their agreement that it is essential for Coconino County to enact local oversight in the short-term rental market in order to ensure safe and livable neighborhoods without missing out on the many benefits that properly regulated short-term rentals can provide to the local economy.

“This is the result of our communicating with the legislature to express our concerns about not having regulatory authority over short-term rentals,” said District 3 Supervisor Matt Ryan. “Albeit limited, we now have a very important tool that will promote voluntary compliance and encourage people to be good neighbors.”

The county is hosting a public hearing Feb. 28 during which the Board will hear public comment and consider and possibly adopt the final ordinance.

Other communities

Last year, the city of Williams estimated between 1/3 to 1/2 of the homes in the city were short-term rentals. Although this figure suggests a successful tourist industry, it points out one major problem: housing for locals and employees.

Local residents are not only struggling to afford housing in Williams, but are also being outbid by investors looking for vacation rental properties. The inability to secure affordable housing is costing Williams valuable employees, including healthcare providers and teachers, among others.

Taking the first steps to regulate short-term rentals back in January 2022, the city passed the following requirements among others:

• Require short-term vacation rentals to register with the city, have a valid business license and a valid TPT number;

• Require short-term rental units to have an initial and annual fire safety inspection and follow all fire codes and regulations;

• Establish fees to cover the costs associated with processing and tracking registration and for the annual fire/safety inspections.

Following the passing of SB 1168, Williams City Council passed an emergency vacation rental ordinance in October, requiring home owners to obtain a permit with various conditions in place.

These conditions, among others, enforced that landlords have a fire/safety inspection signed by the city’s fire marshal, pay a $65 annual inspection fee, provide evidence of liability insurance and live in the United States.

The city also began to require a permit fee of $125 for the first year, and $75 for each renewal year.

The new senate bill granted the city the power to deny permits if an applicant failed to fulfill the above requirements, is a registered sex offender, has been convicted of a felony resulting in death or serious injury or had been convicted of a felony with a deadly weapon with the previous five years.

“We’ve got a number of what used to be rental properties that have been transitioned to vacation rental homes. I believe that people have a right to do whatever they want with their property within reason,” said Williams Mayor Don Dent. “As long as it doesn’t affect their neighbors or their area. So those that choose to want to do vacation homes, they have every right to do that. We also have an obligation to make sure those things are done safe and correctly.”

Cities such as Scottsdale, Mesa, Sedona and many others are also beginning to implement permits.

As of Feb. 15, all short-term rentals operating within Sedona city limits are required to have a permit. Sedona also established a 24/7 hot-line number, providing locals with a valuable resource in case neighboring short-term rentals fail to comply with rules and regulations regarding trash, limiting noise, unsightliness and other nuisances similar to those that apply to other residential uses.

Members of the public wishing to observe and participate in the Feb. 28 county hearing may do so via Zoom Teleconference at the link and telephone number provided at bit.y/CCShortTermRental. Anyone wishing to provide written comment may do so up to 24-hours prior to the hearing time by sending an email to Assistant Director of Community Development Jess McNeely at wmcneely@coconino.az.gov.

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