A state Senator from Western Washington is working on policy which has relevance to Chelan County. 

Democratic Senator Liz Lovelett of Anacortes spoke to Chelan County Commissioners along with East Wenatchee Republican Senator Brad Hawkins Monday. 

Lovelett says the two areas have similar interests over management of short term rentals and the need for workforce housing. 

"One of the things that Senator Hawkins and I have spoken about a lot is the pressure of vacation rentals, in particular," said Lovelett. "Having (the) San Juans (Islands) and having Leavenworth and Chelan, so many similarities in the externalized pressures that that puts on our workforce housing and really trying to find solutions that can work across the state." 

Lovelett has been filing a bill for the past several years to provide local governments the option to fund affordable housing and social service programs through a special excise tax on internet-based, short-term vacation rentals. 

"So, you've got all these people that are just based, that can't afford to live in their communities anymore," Lovelett said. "And then, the very service sector staff that you need, if you're going to have a thriving tourist economy doesn't have any place to live." 

The bill allows government bodies of towns, cities, or counties to opt into a short term rental excise tax with a simple majority vote of their council.  

Local jurisdictions would be granted authority to set the percentage of the tax should they choose to adopt it, with a cap of up to 10% applied to bookings made on vacation rental websites. 

Lovelett says she started the process of coming up with the legislation while a member of the Anacortes city council. 

She told Chelan County commissioners Monday that her bill in the state legislature made it as far as the Rules Committee in the most recent legislative session, which is the farthest a proposal can go before getting a vote on the Senate floor. She’s hopeful it can pass in the 2024 session. 

Lovelett also told county commissioners that adopting codes such as requiring a certain percentage of housing to be owner occupied is working in her district. It’s particularly an issue in the San Juan Islands, where Lovelett says around 78 percent of the housing stock is being used for short term rentals. 

In addition, she said fire code enforcement and building code enforcement is a need in resort areas.  

She brought up the issue of when sprinklers are required as part of the fire code for short term rentals. 

In addition, Lovelett mentioned an extreme case in Whatcom County where a two bedroom home had been converted into a 16 bunk bed party house, which is far more than realistically feasible. 

Chelan County Commissioners did not take any action on short term rentals Monday, but inquired with Senator Lovelett on a number of issues after being introduced to them by Senator Hawkins.

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