OGDEN — Key in any effort to get a handle on problems caused by short-term rentals in Weber County will be devising a system to effectively address those issues.
“You have to have an enforcement provision. You have to have enforcement that’s basically 24-7,” Weber County Commissioner Gage Froerer said Wednesday. That is, someone or some entity needs to be able to respond to any issue at a moment’s notice, not the next day or two days later, when it may be too late.
As is, a single code enforcement officer is tasked with dealing with the bulk of the noise, parking and other issues associated with some of the properties used by weekend and short-term visitors. That can be a lot for one person.
Officials on Tuesday launched what will be a series of meetings focused on the issues related to short-term rentals, particularly abundant in the Ogden Valley due to the recreation hotspots there like Pineview Reservoir and the county’s three ski resorts. Froerer said he’s hoping for a plan of action and new guidelines to govern such properties by October, ahead of the coming ski season.
Commissioner Scott Jenkins agrees that enforcement questions will likely be front and center.
“I suspect that will be the focus when we get right down to it,” he said.
But property rights issues are also at play — who has legal authority to rent out their homes for weekend and other short-term visitors. He first wants to get a handle on that.
“I got our attorneys checking that right now,” Jenkins said.
As it stands, the county’s zoning ordinances allow nightly rentals in some locations but not in others, and Jenkins wants to make sure county officials aren’t overstepping their authority with such restrictions. Other property owners, meanwhile, bristle at the notion of opening the area to too many short-term rentals because of the resulting impact a revolving door of visitors can have on them. That, too, will bear in the discussion.
“We are aware of and want to be sensitive to that concern. The plan is not set yet, so unfortunately there isn’t an answer to that,” said Charlie Ewert, principal planner in the Weber County Planning Division.
Weber County commissioners and the members of the Western Weber and Ogden Valley planning commissions took part in Tuesday’s gathering. Next will come meetings held by the individual planning commissioners, when the public will be able to sound off and offer input.
It’s a touchy issue for some, and for Froerer the key thing is safeguarding Weber County’s residential areas. Any changes would apply only to the unincorporated areas of the county, since that’s where commissioners have jurisdiction.
“How do we maintain the integrity of our neighborhoods is our main priority,” he said.
Short-term rentals have grown exponentially in Weber County, according to a presentation prepared by county planning officials on the issue. There were 873 individual properties listed for rent by websites like Airbnb as of last March, 597 of them in the unincorporated parts of the county, or 68.4% of the total. Within the unincorporated part of the county, they are most prevalent in the Ogden Valley.
Properties rented out via the Airbnb platform alone drew 10,300 visitors to Weber County during the summer of 2019, according to the presentation, generating $970,000.
County staffers have been investigating how other western U.S. communities handle short-term rentals in devising a plan of action here.
“We have a toolbox assembled from the examples of communities from all over the West regarding short-term rentals,” Ewert said, and they will figure in the coming debate and discussion.