Strong support voiced at public hearing
Overwhelming support for a previously imposed moratorium on overnight rental conversions was reiterated in comments at a public hearing on the ordinance at last week’s Twisp Town Council meeting.
At its April 26 meeting, the council had unanimously supported the proposed six-month moratorium, which was prompted by residents’ objections to a recent conversion on West Twisp Avenue.
The moratorium ordinance included the requirement that a public hearing be conducted within 60 days of its adoption.
Twisp civic building move-in delayed
The Town of Twisp staff had hoped to move into the new civic building and regional communications center on Glover Street later this month, but Mayor Soo Ing-Moody said this week that the move-in has been delayed to an undetermined date.
Ing-Moody said that although the interior of the building will be occupied when it is ready, exterior work on landscaping, sidewalks and street improvements will continue.
The mayor said Oct. 7 has tentatively been set as the date for an official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new building, by which time the exterior work is expected to be completed.
Construction on the new building, which has been in the works for more than 10 years, began last year. It is on the site of the previous town hall, which was demolished.
Town offices are temporarily housed on East Second Avenue in a former dental clinic building.
The moratorium stops conversions of existing residential housing to overnight rentals, including properties in commercial zones, while the town considers its long-term policy options for such accommodations.
According to the wording of the ordnance, “The Town needs time to study new code additions/changes for the approval of an Administrative Permit for overnight accommodations and overnight rentals to account for any impact new overnight accommodations and overnight rentals would have on the public’s health, safety and welfare; for example, the Town must determine whether overnight accommodations and overnight rentals should be restricted to a certain zone or zones, if they should be prohibited in certain areas or zones, and address other issues such as signage, parking, traffic circulation, requirements for access, effect on existing uses of property where they are located, etc.”
The moratorium does not affect hotels, motels or existing overnight rentals including B&Bs.
The council action was in response to a public outpouring of support for a moratorium on conversions, demonstrated by dozens of oral and written comments, and by a petition circulated in the community that drew nearly 70 signatures.
Most of the comments asked the town to suspend applications for conversions to overnight rentals, which can occur through an licensing and administrative process without council review or approval. Commenters have cited the loss of housing options for workers, possible negative effects on the character and safety of established neighborhoods, and the potential for taking business away from established tourism lodging businesses including B&Bs.
Twisp currently has no overt prohibitions of overnight rentals in its municipal code. An overnight rental conversion requires a business license, a land use application and an administrative permit, but no council review. Applicants must meet several requirements included in the town’s code. Nightly rentals are allowed in every zone except industrial and at the municipal airport.
At last week’s public hearing, commenters again supported the moratorium, and several called for an outright prohibition of overnight conversions. Others urged quick action to prevent the decline or residential housing stock in the town. There was also support for the formation of an ad hoc committee including town residents to advise the council on potential policy changes.
“We need to be proactive,” said Burgar Street resident Barry Stromberger. “Down the road we’re going to see more of an impact. We need to get a good handle on it now.”
Morgan Cecilia, a neighbor of Stromberger’s on Burgar Street, said “if we don’t take action, our hidden gem of a town won’t be hidden anymore.”
The council unanimously endorsed the findings of facts presented at the public hearing to support the town’s moratorium action.
Mayor Soo Ing-Moody said that a recently launched study of available housing stock, undertaken in conjunction with the Town of Winthrop and supported by a state grant, will provide the town with useful information on which to base its considerations. She also noted the moratorium can be extended if the town needs more time to review its policies and possibly consider new ones.
In other business:
- The council adopted the annual update of the town’s six-year Transportation Improvement Plan, which outlines proposed projects, expected costs and potential funding sources, year by year.
- The council asked the Twisp Airport Advisory Board (TAAP) for more information about two issues the airport board earlier presented to the council: an objection to proposed increases in the ground leasing fees the town charges at Twisp Municipal Airport, and a request that the town include an airport courtesy car under its insurance policy. In a memo to the TAAP that was endorsed by the council, the town asked for more-detailed documentation to support the board’s requests.
- The council accepted the low bid of $225,720 by Rudnick and Sons LLC to complete a construction project including major upgrades on Cascade Drive. The Rudnick bid was the lower of two submitted to the town.