The Town of Twisp has renewed its six-month moratorium on overnight rental conversions as the town continues a study of local housing needs and how best to address them.
After a public hearing at its meeting last week, the Town Council quickly moved to extend the moratorium for another six months.
The moratorium was adopted in April after residents expressed concerns about a rental conversion on West Twisp Avenue. That concern expanded to include a broader public discussion about the potential effects of overnight rental conversions on the housing market and on neighborhood ambience.
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 The moratorium does not affect hotels, motels or existing overnight rentals including B&Bs.
The council’s April action was in response to a public outpouring of support for a moratorium on conversions. Most of the comments asked the town to suspend applications for conversions to overnight rentals, which can occur through a 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.
At a public hearing during last week’s meeting, the council heard several town residents reiterate their concerns about overnight rental conversions and recommend its extension.
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.
Currently there only about half a dozen licensed nightly rental units in the town, but not all of those are active as overnight rentals.
The council also heard a brief update from council member Mark Easton, one of the town’s representatives in a comprehensive study of the area’s housing needs and strategies for addressing them. The study, a joint effort with the Town of Winthrop, is being conducted by La Conner-based Beckwith Consulting Group. The study is funded by a $50,000 Housing Action Plan Implementation (HAPI) grant from the state Department of Commerce.
Easton said Beckwith has been conducting information-gathering sessions with local stakeholders including nonprofits, architects, builders, contractors and others with a stake in housing solutions for the valley. There will also be public open houses scheduled in each town, Easton said.
The goal is to produce a report including recommendations for action by spring of 2023, firm principal Tom Beckwith said earlier.