Over-the-counter rental permits would be subject to issuance of use permits

SANTA ROSA -- The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors intends to make it quicker to set up vacation rentals in unincorporated parts of the county, according to a memo released today.

The board adopted a resolution of intent to change vacation-rental rules to allow for the issuing of operating permits at the Permit and Resource Management Department counter if certain criteria are met, according to a department memo.

Such permits would be subject to the granting of a use permit.

This is a part of a county effort to streamline the permitting process while tightening regulation of short-term rental homes.

The most recent changes to previous draft standards, debated at a January hearing, include extension of “quiet hours,” new limitations on the number of allowed guests and “faster, more specific enforcement,” the memo said.

The new changes to the draft would cap the number of overnight guests at vacation rentals at no more than 12 people, with two per bedroom plus an additional two people per house. The number of bedrooms would be limited to five.

Additionally, no more than 16 guests would be allowed at a time, unless a use permit were granted for a special event.

Also among the newly proposed rules was enforcement. Complaints would be directed to a “contact person” identified in the zoning or use permit. Should complaints reoccur, they would be investigated by the department. If validated, the contact person would receive a notice indicating an administrative penalty equal to the fair-market rental rate for the days the property was in violation.

The county Board of Zoning Adjustments may revoke use permits on either the first for second violation. The contact person could demand a hearing on the complaint and penalty. If a permit is revoked, another one may not be granted for that location for at least a year.

The Board of Supervisors may also enact a yet-to-determined tax for “monitoring and enforcement” of vacation rentals or levying of a transient occupancy tax, such as those paid by hotels.

A Planning Commission hearing is set for June 10. Recommendations would go to the Board of Supervisors for consideration, potentially in July.

In related news, the Napa County Board of Supervisors last week voted to delay implementation of a recently passed ban on short-term rental homes in unincorporated areas until Dec. 1.