Existing businesses that miss Dec. 31 deadline will be considered new

information released by Chelan County, file photo

Beginning yesterday (12/1/21), Chelan County Community Development will be accepting applications for new short-term rental operations for 2022. That’s on top of applications from existing businesses that have been slowly coming in since late September.

“I don’t know what December will look like, but I’m hoping we start seeing more applications coming in from both sides,” said Jim Brown, Community Development director. “The Dec. 31 deadline for the existing applications is closing fast.”

The new application process, which is open through July 29, is for vacation rental operations that are not eligible to be grandfathered into the county’s short-term rental code as an existing operation. The following vacation rentals would be considered new in Chelan County:

The county passed a moratorium on the creation of new short-term rentals from Aug. 25, 2020, through Sept. 26, 2021. Vacation rentals operating during that time or after Sept. 26 are considered a new short-term rental.

Vacation rentals operating prior to Aug. 25, 2020, but whose operators do not turn in an existing, non-conforming application by Dec. 31, also will be considered a new short-term rental on Jan. 1.

“At this point, when we only have about 215 applications processed for existing short-term rentals, I know we will have several existing operators who will be considered new short-term rentals because they will not have met that deadline to be grandfathered in,” said Kirsten Ryles, manager of Community Development’s Short-Term Rental Division.

New short-term rental applicants are subject to any short-term rental caps and lot size and spacing restrictions established in several areas of Chelan County known to have high numbers of existing rentals. (Refer to Chelan County Code (11.88.290) for specific information on those restrictions.)

“For those operators seeking to be grandfathered in, if you miss the upcoming deadline at the end of month, you will be subject to a variety of restrictions, from density caps to lot sizes, that apply to new vacation rentals in this county,” Brown said. “I just can’t stress this enough: Get your existing application in or you will be considered a new business.”

In July, Chelan County commissioners passed a new code, Chapter 11.88.290, that establishes the operating standards of the county’s short-term rental industry. Chelan County also created an application process for existing short-term rentals to give current operators the opportunity to be grandfathered into the new code and not have to comply with requirements that all new rentals must follow. The county has received only of a fraction of the more than 1,000 existing rentals that are known to exist.

“We are seeing many incomplete applications from existing operators, and this holds up the provisional permitting process,” Ryles said. “I want to warn people that an application coming in the week of Dec. 27 that is incomplete, unpaid for, or has another major issue will be returned. Get those applications in by mid-December so we have time to check it for you – and you have time to correct the problem.”

In addition, the ongoing short-term rental application process has exposed another chronic issue in Chelan County’s vacation rental industry.

“I would estimate that one-in-four applications we are receiving from existing vacation rentals is not being accepted because of a critical issue, including that the dwelling was never permitted in the first place or there are too many dwellings on the lot,” Brown said. “This is the most time-consuming issue in my office right now, and it tells me we have a lot of illegally operating vacation rentals out there.”

Come Jan. 1, Chelan County Code Enforcement will begin visiting those vacation rentals that have not applied as an existing short-term rental.

“We are trying to work with the vacation rental owners, but they have to work with us as well,” Brown said. “That starts with getting those applications in so we can work together on creating a legally permitted vacation rental that is safe for everyone.”

The Short-Term Rental Division website, which includes all applications and checklists, can be found at https://www.co.chelan.wa.us/community-development/pages/short-term-rentals. Chelan County offices will not be open Dec. 31 because of the New Year’s holiday.