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Tuolumne County To Study Various Impacts Of Short-Term Rentals

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Sonora, CA — After recently hearing concerns about issues ranging from degrading neighborhood quality of life to a lack of long-term housing options, the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors will study the impacts of short-term rentals like AirBNB’s.

The action was taken at the most recent board meeting. The city of Sonora currently has short-term rental restrictions, but there are no regulations in the unincorporated parts of the county.

Board members stressed that they want to hear both the positive and negative impacts. Potential regulations could range from limiting rentals to just putting in place consequences for bad actors.

The study will look at things like housing availability and affordability, economic impacts, and neighborhood quality of life.

Some of the stakeholders helping in the study will be the Tuolumne County Association of Realtors, Visit Tuolumne County, TC Sheriff’s Department, TC Business Council, HOAs, special districts, and utility providers.

There will also be community listening sessions starting in April in Twain Harte for the Highway 108 corridor, in Groveland for the Highway 120 corridor, as well as in Jamestown, Sonora, and Columbia.

In a broad sense, Supervisor Ryan Campbell said he wants to know if short-term rentals are having a net positive or negative impact. He urged that whatever the study results show, the county should be ready to take any needed actions.

Supervisor Jaron Brandon also stressed the need to acquire the data. He notes that a big concern he has is that ¼ of the county is empty buildings (homes), and he is less concerned if people are living on the site and just renting out a room.

Brandon added that small lodging operations in his district are hit the hardest because of lax regulations on AirBNB’s in comparison to other lodging and bed and breakfasts. Brandon said, “If you are renting rooms in your house, I think we should be relatively hands-off. But, if you don’t live there, and it is just an income property, I would be on the other side in that we should be coming down a lot harder on those because those (inventory) are coming out of the housing market.”

Supervisor Anaiah Kirk said he supports looking into regulations and possibly doing something like a three strikes and you are out policy if renters are allowing events like big parties or other neighborhood nuisances.

Supervisor Kathleen Haff said she wants to hear the whole gamut of stories, about how the community feels.

One property owner raised concerns about putting forward regulations that would make it difficult to have short-term rentals.

Ron Kopf, CEO of the Tuolumne County Business Council, stated that the study seems like a reasonable step but urged the board not to go too far and put in place too restrictive rules that could create unintended problems, as there are also benefits that come with short-term rentals. He said the business community is ready to help look for solutions that are reasonable and “works for everybody.”

The review process will run into July and it would take an estimated six months after that to develop and implement a potential ordinance.

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