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McCall will cut number of occupants allowed in some short-term rentals

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After months of discussion, the City of McCall will move forward with changes to its short-term rental code. 

The city reported there are 524 short-term rentals within the McCall city limits. Of those, 511 are advertising an occupancy of more than two people per room. A change in the short-term rental code would only allow two people per bedroom plus two more people total. 

From the start, this rule change received a lot of attention. Vacation rental owners spoke out against the proposal at public hearings.

How many occupants is too many?

“A lot of my rentals are people where I have three families come in with six parents, but they bring in six kids. This is effectively going to kill people that want to pool their resources and have family vacations in my house, which is large enough to accommodate that many people,” vacation rental owner James Buatti said.

Buatti also questioned how reducing the room occupancy would make rentals safer.

“…I started looking into this and I said ‘I don’t see how limiting two people per bedroom assures egress from fire safety.’ I have a house that I have in it three fire extinguishers, I have three portable safety ladders, smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, I have two fire inspections per year from Vacasa, and I don’t allow smoking in the house, which is the number one cause of fires. I’m having a hard time understanding why that is less safe than a private residence.”

The council’s decision for capping occupancy rates at two per bedroom plus two more is a step up from McCall’s Planning and Zoning Commission’s recommendation of just two per bedroom. 

The current code says a person must obtain a conditional use permit for 20 or more occupants. The city is now changing this requirement to 10 people.

The city found that 150 vacation rentals allow for more than ten people to sleep there. 

Aim to reduce impacts

The city says the intent of the code amendment is twofold: to reduce neighborhood impacts to levels more consistent with a long-term rental or owner-occupied residential uses, and to ensure that short-term rentals are being operated in a safe and responsible manner.

“The maximum occupancy is proposed to be reduced to two persons per bedroom with two additional persons and a maximum of ten persons without the issuance of a conditional use permit, both of which are much more in line with what would be expected of a traditional, permanent residential use,” the city staff report reads. “Nothing in this code amendment is intended to prohibit short-term rentals with occupancies greater than ten persons, rather it ensures that these larger units are adequately mitigating neighborhood and health/safety impacts.”

Owners now must file with the city clerk to be granted a short-term rental permit before advertising the property. 

People applying for a vacation rental permit would pay $225 each year. This is a price increase from the currently required business license fee of $140 plus $70 to renew annually. The new permits would still require annual renewal and inspections. 

The mayor and all council members voted to adopt the rule changes. 

The rule changes go into effect on October 1st. Short-term rental owners can continue to operate under a general business license until December 31, 2022. They will have until January 1, 2024, to get inspections and complete proper permitting to comply with the rule changes.

In early 2020, the city made rule changes to the short-term rental code, including quiet hours from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m., bear-proof trash cans, and smoke, carbon monoxide, and propane gas detectors in the home. 

Autum Robertson - BoiseDev Reporter
Autum Robertson - BoiseDev Reporter
Autum Robertson is a BoiseDev reporter focused on Meridian and McCall. Contact her at [email protected].

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