Four short term rental properties near Leavenworth are operating illegally, according to a decision released Tuesday by the Washington Court of Appeals in Spokane

Each of the short-term rentals (STRs) started sometime after 1999 and are located in the Leavenworth Urban Growth Area and are zoned as low-density residential.

The city of Leavenworth first adopted an ordinance prohibiting STRs (referred to as “transient accommodation” at the time) in low-density residential zones in 1989.

Since at least 2000, Chelan County has adopted Leavenworth’s land use designations for the county’s unincorporated urban growth area around the city.

In 2021, the county established an STR code to regulate the rapidly expanding business.

All four operations applied for permits to continue their STRs as existing nonconforming uses.

The STR owners claimed they were entitled to nonconforming use permits because either their STRs qualify as preexisting lawful uses or a 2021 county resolution provides broad amnesty for existing unpermitted STRs.

The county denied all four permit applications. The STR owners then appealed to the county’s hearing examiner.

The examiner also denied the application, noting none of the STR operations were ever lawful because STRs were not permitted in their respective zones of the Leavenworth UGA at the time they began operating.

Next, each STR owner petitioned in Douglas County Superior Court for review of the hearing examiner’s decision.

The owners then moved to consolidate their land use appeals.

With the parties’ consent, the superior court transferred the consolidated appeal to Court of Appeals (Division III) in Spokane.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court issued its decision Tuesday confirming the county hearing examiners' conclusion. The judges said, "There is no indication in the record that any of the STR owners’ properties had ever previously been granted a use permit…The appellants have not met their burden of establishing a nonconforming use.”

The owners who consolidated their appeals are: Tom Latta; Riverside Cabin and Loft LLC; CEA-LLC or Riverside Vacation Home LLC; and Sims Kelly LLC.

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