Thursday, October 6, 2011

Napa County City puts pressure on Illegal Rentals

Unlike other Napa County areas where vacation rentals have the option to operate legally - the city of Calistoga views Vacation Rentals as illegal competition for legitimate businesses.

A Chamber of Commerce Spokeman Quote:
“...there is also a side of the business community that feels that these types of properties fill a void, create a bigger opportunity for people to come here, eat at our restaurants, buy our wines, shop in our stores.”   Still, he said, “illegal vacation rentals are just that — illegal.”
The Weekly Calistogan

Calistoga, CA - Calistoga officials say they continue to investigate reports of illegal vacation rentals in the city and may wind up filing legal cases against them.

So far, the city has identified about a dozen cases where property owners appear to be renting out private houses in residential areas for short periods. They are advertised on websites at rates from a few hundred to several thousand dollars per night, often with a one-week minimum.

“We’re working with the DA investigating a number of complaints,” Planning and Building Director Ken MacNab said, though he didn’t specify how many had reached that stage.

The city does not permit rentals in residential areas for less than 30 days at a time. The exception is bed-and-breakfast operations, which may operate in residential areas, but only with a city permit — and they must pay the Transient Occupancy Tax, which applies to regular hotels and inns as well.

“It’s a matter of unfair business practice” for the illegal rentals, said MacNab, since these operations do not pay the tax and are not subject to the regulations and inspections that legal hotels and inns undergo.
Earlier this summer, the city and district attorney shut down one such rental, at 1612 Grant St., and imposed nearly $8,000 in fines on the owners and property management company to repay the city and prosecutors for their costs.
That appears to be the first time that the city has enforced its ban on illegal rentals.
The issue is gaining attention in nearby St. Helena as well. The city has identified at least 18 illegal rentals. The St. Helena Planning Commission is debating whether to crack down on the vacation properties or to amend the city code to allow at least some to operate legitimately.
The St. Helena Planning Commission will discuss the matter on Oct. 18.
In 2009, the city of Napa faced a series of complaints about illegal vacation rentals and chose to change the law, allowing them to apply for a license and pay the rental taxes. In the end, 44 of the 74 reported vacation rentals opted to apply for the permit and operate legally.
Napa County, meanwhile, went the opposite direction and chose to stick with its ban a year ago after estimating that there were about 300 such operations in the unincorporated areas.
“There is a sense in the community that this is a rural area; we want to preserve it for agriculture,” said Hillary Gitelman, the county’s director of conservation, development and planning. “We’ve decided as a community that residential uses are OK in an agricultural area, but we certainly do not want commercial uses proliferating in the agricultural area.”
Since then, the county has shut down a number of rentals. Some are still operating, she said, but have “gone underground.”
It’s not clear yet how Calistoga will deal with the rentals. Chris Canning, head of the Chamber of Commerce, said the business community is divided. Hospitality businesses are adamantly opposed to the rentals, saying they present unfair, tax-free competition.
“But there is also a side of the business community that feels that these types of properties fill a void, create a bigger opportunity for people to come here, eat at our restaurants, buy our wines, shop in our stores,” he said.
Still, he said, “illegal vacation rentals are just that — illegal.”

1 comment:

  1. Take a look at Sonoma County and how the county, businesses and visitors have a win win by allowing vacation rentals.


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