WENATCHEE — Don MacKenzie, owner of a short-term rental near Fish Lake, is working through 30 pages of newly adopted Chelan County code to prepare an application that would allow him to continue operating his business without any additional interruptions.
But the process is complicated, he said.
“We’re having to gather records from multiple sources at the county,” MacKenzie said. “We’re talking tax records, septic permit, all kinds of stuff related to the property and to its prior use as a short-term rental. (There’s) also having to create new documents with floor plans, property maps, fire readiness plan. There’s a lot of work that is going into this.”
MacKenzie is still preparing his documents to apply to be grandfathered, and he is not the only one. Before applications opened on Sept. 27, the Chelan County Community Development team was expecting to see hundreds of applications by the end of the year.
As of Oct. 19, the county had received just 40 completed applications out of the 1,300 estimated short-term rental operations.
MacKenzie, who is also on the board of the Short-term Rental Association of Chelan County, is working on resources to assist people looking to apply, but he expects many are going to wait since applying early has no benefit.
“I think people really want to dot the I’s and cross their T’s,” he said. “They don’t want to jeopardize their status as a non-conforming rental by inadvertently putting something inaccurate on their application.”
The low number of applications submitted could also be that some short-term rental operators cannot prove that they were operating legally before the county’s moratorium on new rentals went into effect on Aug. 25, 2020, said Kirsten Ryles, the county’s short-term rental program manager, in an email.
The county’s short-term rental team has received hundreds of questions about the application, Ryles said. Some people also are getting incorrect or partially correct information after visiting Facebook groups.
“I actually just got off the phone with someone who had been told that we are going to approve 5% of the (grandfathered) applications,” Ryles said in an email. “This is beyond false. We would advise those with questions or concerns to reach out directly to the department.”
Ryles said that with the unexpected low number of applications submitted, the department has been able to refine the process a bit. She is concerned, though, that people will wait too long.
“If a packet is submitted last minute and it is not complete, the delay could cost the owner their claim to the existing non-conforming status and they would then have to apply as (a new short-term rental),” she said.