By Marcy Stamper
Okanogan County is considering changes to its procedure for approving and permitting nightly rentals.
Nightly rentals, where a property owner rents a house or cabin for less than 30 days, have to be approved by the county’s Building, Planning and Public Health departments.
The proposed changes would affect the processing of applications and provide a way of tracking them, according to Mike Harr, an environmental health specialist at Okanogan County Public Health.
In the past, some property owners believed that having a permit from Public Health, which inspects properties annually, was sufficient to legally rent a house to tourists.
But people also need to meet requirements set by the Building and Planning departments. In particular, in the Methow Valley School District, nightly rentals are allowed only in planned developments, which have special requirements for lot sizes and open space. There are a handful of exceptions for people who had been operating them since before those zoning requirements were adopted in the mid-1990s.
Two years ago, the county changed the procedure so that people had to obtain a final approval from Planning and Building before they could rent to tourists. But because Public Health’s inspections are a fee-based program, some applicants were frustrated after they paid their fee but had to wait months for approval from the other departments before they could legally operate, said Harr.
Public Health also ended up tracking applications but wasn’t getting paid for their time, said Harr.
The new approach would require people to start with Public Health, but will create a database so that all applications are tracked by all three departments, said Harr. Applicants will be advised to consult Planning and Building before submitting their application to Public Health.
“It still has to go through all three agencies — it just has to take a different path,” said Harr. Final approval will come from Planning.
The annual fee for the health permit is $215, which covers inspection of the property. There are about 100 nightly rentals countywide, said Harr.
In addition to the changes in processing applications, the draft regulations include minor changes to requirements for sinks and railings.
The Okanogan County Board of Health is holding a public hearing on the proposed changes at its meeting on Tuesday (Feb. 13) at 1:30 p.m.
The draft 2018 Revised Okanogan County Public Health Regulations for Overnight Transient Accommodations are on the Public Health website at www.okanogancounty.org/ochd. People can comment at the hearing or submit their comments in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org.