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LETTER: Code update, enforcement needed for vacation rentals

| February 28, 2024 12:45 PM

Dear Editor,

We recently submitted this letter to the City of Moses Lake, City Council, Planning Commission and Ms. Kirsten Peterson, who’s the Community Development Director. We felt it was important to share with you and the community because it is such a timely issue. The letter is as follows: 

We would like to call for a moratorium on issuing licenses for vacation rental homes until the new code is completed. We recently had discovered unlicensed vacation homes in our neighborhood and reported them to the city. We also attended a city planning meeting Sept. 14, 2023, to speak on our concerns. At that time it was made known that the city did not have a program in place to discover these unlicensed businesses. In spite of our protests, a license was granted for at least one of these houses, without penalty! There were also numerous code violations. One of the things that was disturbing was there never was a notification of neighbors about the application for this property. See municipal code chapter 18.63.060 regarding notification requirements. Criteria for Endorsement 18.63.060 states, “Business License Endorsement. A business license endorsement shall be applied for and obtained prior to any use of property as a vacation rental dwelling.” See 18.63.110, Violations, A, B, C, D, E. Violations continue because no business license was applied for before renting the house. See 18.63.120 Penalties. We don’t believe any penalties were enforced or collected.

We are also concerned about the number of houses that could be allowed to obtain a vacation rental license. Our neighborhood is on the lake, so it can be a desirable location to do so. We would like a controlled percentage of allowable rental homes included in the new code, after public comment and input. We want to maintain a safe and quiet residential area. 

So, in closing, there needs to be a moratorium on issuing vacation rental licenses because the city is currently updating the code, and as we pointed out, licenses are being given to people in clear violation of the current code. This cannot continue. 

Also, we think a couple things need to be added is neighborhood notification before an issuance of endorsement. This would include increasing the notification area to be more than 200 feet and allowing for public comment. Posted signs required at the property with notice that it is a vacation home, name of owner and a 24-hour contact number. A requirement signage for occupants of proper lake usage with boats and jet skis. For example, the distance to be off the shore when using them, coming into shore at proper speed and respecting neighbor areas. Limit allowable number of rentals in an area. Disclosure to possible buyers in the area of vacation homes. Enforce penalties that are (in) the code. 

Wayne and Rebecca Hutsell

Moses Lake