LEAVENWORTH — David and Jessyca Poole sit on the porch of their vacation rental they own in Leavenworth.
The house sits on a small dirt road behind the Leavenworth Golf Club. It is shaded by pine trees and David Poole said it appears that all the homes around it are also vacation rentals.
“We inherited some money and we tried to work out a good way to invest it rather than just investing it in the stock market and we always thought about getting a vacation rental,” David Poole said.
Chelan County is considering creating new regulations around vacation rentals that could impact people like David and Jessyca Poole. The county has had two public workshops in June to discuss possible changes to county ordinances. If the Pooles couldn’t rent out the property as a vacation rental they don’t know if they would have purchased it, Jessyca Poole said.
“That was one of the concerns of mine, honestly, buying a vacation rental,” she said. “I wanted to rent it out because I didn’t want it to sit empty in a community, honestly.”
The Poole family lives in Seattle and uses the house often, sometimes for weekends and sometimes for entire weeks, Jessyca Poole said. The rest of the time, the Love Leavenworth company manages the house and rents it to vacationers.
The Pooles don’t know any information about the people who rent their property or how often it gets rented, besides a guest book they keep, David Poole said. But he doesn’t believe there have been any complaints about the people renting the property.
The house has four bedrooms and three sofa beds — two in the basement and one in the living room — and could accommodate 16 people, he said. But he believes it is only rented out for a maximum of 13 people.
The previous property owner said it grossed about $50,000 a year, David Poole said. The Pooles bought it in June 2018. The management company takes about 35 percent of the gross.
The idea of new regulations concerns some vacation rental owners and managers like Sean Lynn and Zelda Holgate. Lynn owns and operates Love Leavenworth and Holgate works with Natapoc Lodging.
Lynn and Holgate are also both members of the Short Term Rental Alliance of Chelan County. The group formed when the county announced it was creating new regulations around vacation rentals, Lynn said.
“All of a sudden this spring, there is quick ramp up and a need to regulate,” Lynn said. “There seems to be a real rush to regulate without identifying what the issues actually are.”
Chelan County already has ordinances in regards to noise, parking and trash. The county should focus on enforcing existing rules before it creates new ones, Holgate said.
There is also the issue of property rights. People who own residential homes should be allowed to do what they like with their property, including renting it out, Holgate said.
“I don’t want somebody telling me what I can and cannot do within my home,” she said.
Lynn did say he benefits from some regulation on vacation rentals. He lives within the city of Leavenworth where vacation rentals are banned except in commercial areas.
“I personally feel that the community does have a right to say what the community needs to look like,” he said.
But vacation rentals provide a lot of benefits, including economically to communities, Lynn said. The tourists who stay in vacation rentals also shop, eat and recreate and the county needs to consider the impact of regulation to the tourism economy before it makes a decision, he said.
“A shop owner in Leavenworth that lives up in Plain may not want that vacation rental right next to them, but they sure enjoy the extra income from the people staying at that vacation rental,” he said.
Taking it slow
Chelan County Commissioner Bob Bugert said the county has been working up to this process for a while and isn’t in a rush to regulate.
“Certainly, what prompted it is we received numerous complaints from folks about having short-term rentals in their areas,” Bugert said.
The county doesn’t want to infringe on private property rights, he said. But when the use of a private property impacts its neighbors the government needs to intervene, he said.
“The challenge goes to when you have activities going on in your property that affect other people’s property — that’s an issue we need to address,” Bugert said.
The Chelan County Planning Commission and the Chelan County Commission will have multiple public meetings on the possible new ordinances before a decision is made, he said.
“We want to make sure that we take this slowly and deliberately as we can and be as transparent as we can,” Bugert said. “Make sure that everybody who has got a say has an opportunity to weigh in on this.”