City council hits pause on rental regulations

Posted 8/22/19

The Powell City Council voted Monday to indefinitely table an ordinance regarding short-term rentals. The ordinance would have more clearly defined the city’s regulations that cover people …

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City council hits pause on rental regulations


The Powell City Council voted Monday to indefinitely table an ordinance regarding short-term rentals. The ordinance would have more clearly defined the city’s regulations that cover people renting their homes out for short stays. As the laws are currently written, there isn’t clear language on what is and is not permitted.

In tabling the ordinance, council indicated they want more time to explore the issue before enacting any ordinances that would govern the practice.

Short-term rentals have become more common as online services, such as Airbnb, connect travelers with people renting their homes or rooms in their homes for stays as short as one night.

The city’s first public hearing on the ordinance on Aug. 5 brought out a resident who, while not opposed to Powell residents using their homes for vacation rentals, was concerned with the lack of notice about a neighbor offering the service. (She also said she’d spoken to her neighbor about the transient traffic the renting is drawing, and that the owner of the home was courteous concerning the concerns.)

Monday’s meeting drew out another resident, Don Thomas, who rents out his home on North Bent Street.

Thomas said he started advertising his rental on Airbnb last year, believing it probably wouldn’t generate any interest. Since listing his home, however, he said he’s gotten dozens of renters from all over the world — including Japan, China, Ohio, Minnesota and California.

“We were surprised,” Thomas said.

He said Airbnb requires them to have an emergency evacuation plan and a First Aid kit for renters. The service also withholds all lodging and sales tax.

Thomas said such rental options are benefitting the town’s economy; he provides renters with pamphlets featuring restaurants and coffee shops in Powell.

“If they weren’t here, they’d be in Cody,” Thomas said. “It’s exciting for them to see there’s another town to get to Yellowstone.”

He also said the people who have stayed at his rental have left with a good impression of the city.

“They leave here loving Powell. ... Every one of them has said how much they love the community,” he told the council.

Thomas also hires young people to clean after a group of renters leave, which further contributes to the local economy. In addition, “We’re facing retirement here,” he said, “and this is a nice source of income for our family.”

Thomas said he hasn’t heard any complaints from his neighbors about the transient traffic associated with the home he rents.

“We’re trying to learn a bit about this, so it’s nice to hear from an owner that’s doing this,” said Mayor John Wetzel.

One of the proposals for an ordinance would require those offering short-term rentals to register with the city. That would allow law enforcement to refer to a list if a resident complained about any problems associated with renters at a city residence.

The mayor asked Thomas if he’d have any objections to such a registration requirement, and Thomas said he would not.

With the ordinance tabled indefinitely, the council has the option to pick it up at any time. The council intends to discuss feedback they’ve received from community members and look at how to best draft regulations.


County hosting meeting tonight on short-term rentals

Park County commissioners are hoping to hear Powell area residents’ thoughts about short-term rentals during a meeting at the fairgrounds tonight (Thursday).

The public meeting is set to run from 5-6:30 p.m. at Heart Mountain Hall.

With more and more people renting out their homes and outbuildings for one- or two-day stays through sites like Airbnb, there have been complaints. And commissioners are mulling whether they need to regulate the practice.

“We need to know which way the public wants to go on this stuff. How involved do we want to get?” Commission Chairman Jake Fulkerson said Tuesday.

Commissioner Lee Livingston agreed that the board needs to consider the issue, though he said he’s “leery of more regulation.”

Additional meetings are scheduled in the South Fork, Cody, Wapiti and Clark.