Chelan County considers limits on vacation rentals

Leavenworth shines for visitors all year, especially during the holidays.

Visitors not staying in town often choose vacation rentals, such as Don MacKenzie’s cabin at Fish Lake.

“If you like staying in vacation rentals on waterfront property, you can say goodbye to that,” MacKenzie said.

That’s because as soon as next week, Chelan County commissioners might limit the number of short-term rentals in some of the most popular places to 5% of the housing stock.

“This is going to wipe out two-thirds of the vacation rentals in the Leavenworth-Lake Wenatchee area,” MacKenzie said.

By contrast, Kirvil Skinnarland, who leads a community group in support of restricting vacation rentals, estimates about half of the vacation rentals in that area will shut down but said that 75% of county land will remain open.

Skinnarland said with more properties turning into Airbnbs, full-time residents can’t afford to buy or rent.

“A lot of people are starting to talk around here about a more sustainable level of tourism,” she said.

Skinnarland said neighbors report problems with loud parties, garbage and overflow parking blocking roads.

“When you live in a place, you don’t want this happening in your neighborhood,” she said.

“That can be an issue with a long-term renter or your full-time neighbor next door,” said Zelda Holgate, who manages six properties, some that have been vacation rentals for decades, and leads a group in support of short-term rentals.

She said they generate $150 million a year for the county’s economy.

Property owners said they support standards and licensing, but the current proposal goes too far.

“The draft code that they’ve developed is jumping right to the nuclear option of forcing many of us to shut down,” MacKenzie said.

Doug England, of the Chelan County Commission, said the proposal is not finalized, and he’s not sure when there will be a vote.

Opponents are concerned the three-member commission will pass the restrictions next week just before the chair retires and a new commissioner joins.

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