Whatcom council to consider rules for unregulated vacation rentals

Whatcom County may consider whether to regulate vacation rentals, those short-term rental homes that have sprouted up all across the unincorporated county.

The County Council will discuss options for setting limits on vacation rentals at a committee meeting at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 16, at the county courthouse, 311 Grand Ave., Bellingham.

Residents off North Shore Road, on the east shore of Lake Whatcom, approached the council in May to complain about loud, crowded parties at vacation-rental homes in their neighborhood. The changes to county rules to be considered Tuesday wouldn’t address noise — rules already are in place for that. Rather, council will decide whether to require parking, adequate handling of trash or even business licenses for the property owners.

Council could recommend banning vacation rentals altogether, although they are said to coexist peaceably with full-time residents in places such as Birch Bay and Glacier. More than 100 homes in the unincorporated county are listed on the vacation-rental websites vrbo.com and airbnb.com.

Wherever the discussion goes among council members on Tuesday, nothing will be decided quickly. With a nod from council to proceed on regulations for vacation rentals, the county’s planning staff would prepare to bring a proposal first to the county Planning Commission in the coming months.

To develop the new rules, planners would seek input from the general public and specifically from vacation-rental owners, according to a memo to the council.