Clark County passes STR law amid allegations of payoffs, pressure from lobbyists
Clark County Commissioners Marilyn Kirkpatrick, Jim Gibson, and Tick Segerblom (Nevada Current file photo)
Amid allegations they are doing the bidding of the resort industry, Clark County commissioners on Tuesday unanimously adopted an ordinance designed to slash the number of vacation rentals operating in unincorporated areas of Southern Nevada by roughly 75%.
STR owners railed against the ordinance, which will permit about 2,800 rentals and presumably crack down on the remainder of the 10,000 to 12,000 properties currently operating illegally.
Opponents accused commissioners of pandering to their corporate donors and Culinary Local 226, which has opposed the proliferation of short-term rentals.
Commission Chairman Jim Gibson says he doesn’t “blame anyone for buying in on that notion” that the resort industry is seeking to put STR operators out of business. But he said the suggestion that “everyone is paying everyone off” is “really unfortunate.”
The Nevada Resort Association supports imposing the transient lodging tax that is paid by resorts on other public accommodation facilities such as STRs.
The ordinance is the result of a legislative mandate to address the proliferation of previously unregulated STRs in unincorporated Clark County. Henderson, Las Vegas, and North Las Vegas have their own regulations, which are unaffected.
“We’re making an effort to comply both with the statute and to respond to what we’re hearing in the community,” Gibson said.
“The reality is that we have sampled what people think,” Gibson said of numerous town hall meetings held on the topic, in addition to a county survey that garnered close to 6,000 responses, the majority of which favored regulation of the location, number, and occupancy levels of STRs. “We listen to what our neighbors tell us.”
Gibson said commissioners are aware of the “good that is done” by having STRs in the community and did not preclude increasing the number of licenses, set in the ordinance at 1% of housing stock.
Commissioner William McCurdy suggested extending the time from 48 hours to five days for a platform such as Airbnb to remove an unlicensed property.
Commissioner Michael Naft suggested eliminating a provision that requires STRs to be identified by a placard on the property.
“Now I feel like I’m not going to vote for this thing,” Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick complained, citing what she called the low fees assessed to applicants, the extended time allowed platforms to remove errant listings, and Naft’s suggestion to remove the requirement for a placard identifying an STR. “So, I’m sorry fellows, but at what point do we truly regulate these? Or do we let the lobbyists tell us what the hell to do?”
Kirkpatrick ultimately voted for the ordinance, with the requirement for a placard identifying STRs intact.
The ordinance prohibits STRs from operating:
- In apartments and common-interest communities, unless authorized by governing documents
- In multifamily dwellings where more than 10% of units would be licensed as transient lodging
- Within 2,500 feet of a resort hotel
- Within 1,000 feet of another residential STR
Additional provisions provide:
- No property owner may have a legal or beneficial ownership interest in more than one license
- A party who had an STR license revoked, suspended or not renewed in the last seven years cannot be licensed
- A party who voluntarily relinquished a license during a proceeding to revoke, suspend or not renew an STR permit cannot be licensed
- A property “regularly and continuously” used for or to facilitate criminal activity cannot be licensed.
The proposed ordinance exempts short-term rentals in Mt. Charleston, Moapa, Moapa Valley, Mesquite, and Bunkerville from the rules.
The Greater Las Vegas Short-Term Rental Association has vowed to take legal action against the county. It’s raised $51,000 for a legal fund and has hired the law firm of former Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison. Hutchison did not respond to a request for comment.
“Your association, you don’t need to reach out to me,” Gibson said to GLVSTRA co-founder Louis Korndyk, who Gibson criticized for name-calling during his comments to the commission. “Don’t be coming around to the sixth floor to my office.”
The application period is expected to begin Sept. 1 and must run for six months, according to state law. After that, a lottery will determine which applicants may proceed.
To receive a number for the lottery, applicants must provide proof the property is in a qualified location.
Properties that are connected to a septic tank and not a public wastewater system are not eligible.
Commissioner Tick Segerblom said “there’s a ton of houses out there that have been bought by investors” in anticipation of operating them as short term rentals. He suggested the ordinance will prompt those owners to put the properties back on the market and alleviate the valley’s housing crisis.
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