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March 8: County Council discusses proposed vacation rental cap

San Juan County Council will review the Planning Commission's Findings and Recommendations at the March 8, 2022 regular meeting in the Legistlative Hearing Room. Both are listed below. The council has a policy of "three touches" before adopting ordinances. 

The next steps: 

1. Staff briefing to Council on draft ordinance based on Planning Commission findings, conclusions, and recommendations [First touch – March 8, 2022]

2. Staff briefing on changes to or questions about draft ordinance resulting from previous discussion [Second touch]

3. Council sets public hearing on proposed vacation rental permit cap ordinance[Third touch]

4. Council holds a public hearing

5. Council adopts a code amendment ordinance


Planning Commission Findings

• A. San Juan County Code 18.04.275 regulates vacation rental of residences or accessory dwelling units (vacation rentals) but does not include regulations that address the impact of concentration of vacation rentals or the impacts of tourism.

• B. Vacation rentals consist of transient occupants who are not resident in the community long enough to establish relationships capable of building community. Concentration of vacation rentals negatively impacts the sense of neighborhood or community as transient occupants begin to outnumber residents.

• C. Vacation rentals are the primary source of growth of transient accommodations in the County. Other sources of transient accommodations such as hotels, campgrounds and resorts are significantly limited by existing land use regulations.

• D. Growth of transient accommodations is likely to result in additional tourist visits to the islands, which may result in negative impacts if not properly regulated.

• E. It is appropriate to evaluate the impact of vacation rentals on the environment, neighborhoods, and the community.

• F. It is necessary to explore local regulations of vacation rentals to ensure that the County adequately addresses potential land use compatibility issues and adverse impacts to rural character, natural resources and the public welfare.

• G. Existing compliant vacation rental permits remain valid and are not affected by caps.

Planning Commission Recommendations

The County Council sets the limit on vacation rentals at 650 permits for a period of five years following the adoption of the proposed ordinance.

This is the number of permits that were compliant as of July 31, 2021.

• 229 for San Juan Island

• 334 for Orcas

• 85 for Lopez

• 2 for Other Islands

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