EDEN — Short-term rental properties — an ongoing topic of fierce debate in the Ogden Valley — could theoretically coexist among the homeowner-occupied residences in the area, says Jim Brown.
“If the renters were considerate of those of us that live here, there wouldn’t be a problem,” he said.
As is, though, that sort of consideration is frequently in short supply, Brown maintains, and it’s got him and many others in the area leery of any change allowing more short-term rentals. To the contrary, Brown, a year-round resident of the Eden area, wonders if fines should be increased against those who skirt the laws governing such properties to make them more conscientious in their renting habits.
“A $75 or $100 fine doesn’t affect them,” Brown said, noting that a problematic rental in his Wolf Creek neighborhood can fetch up to $400 a night from visitors.
Weber County officials are currently in the midst of debating possible change to county rules governing short-term rentals, and it’s got many clamoring against any shift that would allow more short-term rentals or otherwise ease the restrictions they face. The Ogden Valley, with its ski resorts, Pineview Reservoir and other recreational offerings, is a big draw for weekend visitors and others looking for a getaway. For permanent residents in the zone, though, the resulting influx of people — renting via online platforms like Airbnb — can be cause for noise, disruption and headaches.
“I will tell you it’s a very hot issue here in the Ogden Valley. This is where most of the rentals are,” said Jan Fullmer, active in Ogden Valley GEM, an area group that keeps a close watch on development issues.
The issue is the focus of a work session among county planning officials next Tuesday and another on Sept. 1 as they try to get a handle on the matter. And if the comments submitted to the Weber County Planning Division are any indication, there’s little support for change that would make things easier for owners of short-term rental properties. The comments fill 121 pages, with the overwhelming majority voicing concern with short-term rentals, describing them as potential hotspots of trouble in otherwise tranquil neighborhoods.
A letter from Ogden Valley residents Brent and Sandy Cunningham — typical of many — spoke of screaming children, naked cocktail parties, “loud pounding music” and more at a rental property near them. “We have had so many problems with the nightly renters disturbing the peace, shooting guns onto our property, fireworks, ATVs, fights, loud music, large parties going on until early morning, unattended children by the river, trash, the list goes on...,” reads their letter.
Brown, for his part, remembers a group of young kids at a short-term rental property near his home tearing around his Wolf Creek neighborhood on motorcycles, causing a ruckus. He and other neighbors voiced their concerns to the visitors, to no avail, and ultimately called the Weber County Sheriff’s Office to intervene. The owner of the property on another occasion held a loud party, and the neighbors, again, stepped in to voice their objections.
“The owner proceeded to tell us he didn’t want to be bothered with us,” Brown said.
‘SIMPLY OVERKILL’Weber County Commissioner Gage Froerer says the likely focus of any change would be creating an enforcement system to quickly and effectively deal with concerns like those of Brown and the Cunninghams. With only one code enforcement officer who can deal with rental issues, it’s currently an uphill battle.
Even so, some have spoken out to defend the rights of property owners to use their land as they like, renting it out if they so desire.
“Allow neighborhoods, homeowners associations and (neighborhood covenants) to directly address bad actors who don’t respect their neighbors when renting their property. But please do not take away property rights of property owners by putting in place a blanket proscriptive ban,” wrote J. Gordon Auchincloss, who also submitted comments to county planners. Such a ban, he said, “is simply overkill.”
Commissioner Scott Jenkins, likewise, has sounded off on the importance of protecting property rights.
Brown, though, maintains that such views are in the minority. “I’ve heard it from Commissioner Jenkins, but that’s the only place I’ve heard it from,” he said.
Froerer said the county’s legal experts are looking into the issue, trying to determine how much leeway commissioners have in governing where short-term rentals may be located. But the preliminary indication, he said, is that commissioners have authority via zoning ordinances. “We want to make sure we’re not bumping up against the Constitution there,” he said.
Following the work sessions next Tuesday and Sept. 1, a public hearing will likely be held, probably in late September or early October, said Rick Grover, director of the Weber County Planning Division. The tentative timeline calls for action by commissioners, who have final say, in November, ahead of the coming ski season.
Next Tuesday’s work session of the Ogden Valley Planning Commission starts at 5 p.m. and will be held via Zoom, https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85275768120. The public may also attend a broadcast of the meeting viewable at Weber County Commission chambers at the Weber Center, 2380 Washington Blvd., and may comment there or via Zoom, according to Grover.
The Sept. 1 work session of the Ogden Valley and Western Weber planning commissioners will also start at 5 p.m. and be held via Zoom, https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88281755575. As with Tuesday’s meeting, Grover said the public may attend a broadcast of the meeting at the Weber Center and may comment there or via Zoom.