Lodging Goals for Whatcom County

Permalink +

Thu, Jan 08, 2015, 2:54 pm  //  Guest writer

Vacation Rental Property on Lake Whatcom

Tani Sutley guest writes a second article about unlicensed vacation rentals and presents goals for the county council to consider.

- - - 

Whatcom County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing onThursday, January 8, 2015, 6:30 pm at the County NW Annex at the intersection of Northwest Road and Smith Road to discuss a proposed amendment to Whatcom County code to allow Vacation Rentals in all residential zones.  Public input is encouraged.

Vacation rentals commonly feature short-duration rental periods with minimum stays of two days and list availability year round. The homes advertised on AirB&B, VRBO.com and similar sites are mostly not owner occupied and are investment properties. Many employ a property management company to clean and manage the maintenance of the unit while the owner lives in Canada or elsewhere.

Pictured with this article is one of the three vacation rental properties in our neighborhood, this one owned by a Canadian couple. The property is rented to transient guests throughout the year although the prime months are June, July, August and September. A hired service comes to handle cleaning, linens, etc. between guests.

Code Amendment PLN2014-00020

Following an initial review by the County Council who informally endorsed it, proposed amendment PLN2014-00020 was reviewed by the Planning Commission on December 11, 2014.   It states any owner can rent their home for less than 30 days as a customarily incidental accessory use.  In seeking to apply this designation, planning staff are asking us to accept that renting a home to tourists has, by long practice, been established as reasonably associated with the primary residential use.

Most residential neighborhoods in Whatcom County, however, are, by long practice, not used for overnight tourist lodging. By long practice, homeowners live in neighborhoods occupied by other homeowners who are also using their homes for long-term habitation.  Since most homeowners need to live in their homes as a residence, an entire home rental to tourists can really only happen if the home is not the primary home of the owner and is purchased as an investment property, is a second seasonal use home or they have a permitted Accessory Dwelling unit.

Transient Occupancy Tax

With areas in Birch Bay and the Mt. Baker Recreational Regions operating in Resort/Recreational developments generating tax income for Whatcom County, county officials are interested in generating more income from vacation rentals in other areas.  The Bellingham Herald reported on December 11, 2014:

County officials see an opportunity to make up for potential lost revenue. Vacation rentals, or homes rented to guests for less than 30 days, are unregulated in the county, and many do not pay a lodging tax, according to officials. The council is scheduled to consider new rules for vacation rentals next year.
“One of the conditions of being legal would be to make sure the taxes are paid,” Louws said.
A search on AirBnB.com gave more than 300 results for vacation rentals in Whatcom County. Estimating conservatively that 300 places are rented four weeks a year at $100 a night, the county or cities should collect $33,600 a year in tourism promotion dollars.

One way to generate more tax revenue is to allow all residential homes to be used for transient rentals.  This would encourage residential homes to be purchased by investors from Canada or elsewhere to purchase existing homes for tourist rentals. For investors in real estate, the minimally regulated and minimally enforced residential uses eliminates environmental reviews, permit costs, and delays for conditional use permits.  For residents of Whatcom County, it would drive up the cost of home ownership or the cost of renting a home while working and living in the area since it impacts the availability of our long-term rental supply.

Regulation of Vacation Rentals in Other Counties and Cities

San Francisco, Portland and Lincoln City, Oregon have all recently updated their laws to deal with web-enabled commercial use of homes as vacation rentals.  All three now regulate the level of impact by either allowing accessory use for low impact or requiring conditional use permits for higher impact, higher occupancy uses.  Lincoln City, Oregon has designated certain areas for vacation rentals but excludes them entirely in other areas.  This separation of uses is also found in Pacific County, Washington state.

Portland, Oregon’s recent update of municipal code for vacation rentals is much like Whatcom County’s bed and breakfast establishment allowance of two rooms to be rented in a home that is still used as the primary residence of the owner.  A home used for three to five rooms in Portland requires a conditional use permit.  Unlike this proposal, they require a license regardless of the number of bedrooms, neighbors must be notified and they have provisions for enforcement. In our county enforcement is delegated to the sheriff’s office and only noise is considered enforceable. Although building standards are included in the proposal, no inspections or license will be required continuing the present practice of complaint driven compliance. 


In Whatcom County, noncompliance with building codes and regulations are assigned a low priority for enforcement and entire home remodels creating new unpermitted accessory apartments for vacation rentals are considered low priority.  Assigning low priority assures compliance will never be enforced.  On May 6, 2014 the Planning and Development Committee members reviewed issues effecting county code compliance.  Minutes are found online on the county website.

Related Links:

-> County council planning committee minutes for May 6, 2014

Walter Haugen  //  Sat, Jan 10, 2015, 3:49 pm

Man, this stuff makes my head hurt! Let me give you an example. Here are six sentence fragments which encapsulate why nothing gets done in a timely manner. [Lines 5 - 24 in the Council minutes.]

[Begin quote]
Mann stated he’s more concerned about enforcement against violations that impact neighbors.

Brenner asked and there was discussion of whether work done by Tyler Schroeder was related to these issues and about beekeeping in the rural residential zone.

Mann stated he would like to fix the code regarding several issues . . . .

Crawford stated there are two issues. One issue is staffing. Another issue is with making the code more efficient and streamlined.

Louws stated they have docketed this year the ability for the County to make changes. Council must encourage staff to go through the process . . . .
[End quote]

So just to recap, Ken Mann says we need more enforcement. Barbara Brenner weighs in with a bit o’ spin. Sam Crawford further dissembles by complicating matters in an attempt to spin it in another direction. Jack Louws pats everyone on the head and says we will get to it.

Meanwhile, the Sheriff could be more aggressive about noise complaints but the inability to get anything done in county government gives him more cover to just ignore the problem.

Lodging Goals for Whatcom County

Thu, Jan 08, 2015, 2:54 pm  //  Guest writer

Tani Sutley guest writes about the vacation rentals situation and presents goals for the county council to consider for improving our rural neighborhoods.

1 comments; last on Jan 10, 2015

Whatcom County and the New Sharing Economy

Tue, Dec 09, 2014, 2:25 am  //  Guest writer

Tani Sutley writes of how unregulated vacation rentals are invading the Lake Whatcom watershed. She urges action before the Planning Commission meeting on 11 December.

4 comments; last on Jan 03, 2015

Paper Dreams in Fairhaven

Next door to Village Books

Water, Water Everywhere, but ...

Sat, Apr 19, 2014, 2:57 pm  //  Terry Wechsler

or How Not to Plan for Future Generations' Water Needs

12 comments; last on Jun 30, 2014

Lecture on County Water Issues Draws Crowd

Sat, Dec 07, 2013, 12:03 am  //  Wendy Harris

The county will be required to consider water quality and water quantity when planning rural growth.

3 comments; last on Dec 10, 2013

Our Water - War or Pieces?

Fri, May 24, 2013, 1:18 am  //  Guest writer

Marian Beddill provides a general guide for the public, with a look at the history of water rights in Washington state.

4 comments; last on May 26, 2013

Closing Arguments in Defense of the Reconveyance

Mon, Mar 11, 2013, 7:37 am  //  Guest writer

Guest writer Shane Roth writes in favor of the reconveyance of Lake Whatcom land back to the county.

1 comments; last on Mar 11, 2013

Aquatic Invasive Species Plan for Lake Whatcom

Mon, Jan 28, 2013, 2:52 am  //  Wendy Harris

Improving ecosystem functions holistically is the best form of protection for the Lake Whatcom.

1 comments; last on Jan 29, 2013

Is Noncompliance Addicting?

Fri, Jan 11, 2013, 2:35 pm  //  Wendy Harris

A proposed amendment to the Lake Whatcom watershed moratorium will increase water quality degradation

1 comments; last on Jan 12, 2013

Noncompliance 2013: The Game

Mon, Jan 07, 2013, 12:49 am  //  Wendy Harris

Watch the Whatcom County Council wiggle its way out of the latest round of GMA compliance requirements for Lake Whatcom

1 comments; last on Jul 27, 2013

City Staff Lacks Impartiality On Dock Closure

Tue, May 15, 2012, 7:32 pm  //  Wendy Harris

A City staff memo on the Bloedel dock closure reads more like an advocacy brief


Squalicum Mountain development gets favors from county

Sat, Feb 18, 2012, 4:03 pm  //  Guest writer

No EIS - no real county planning concern about developing Squalicum Mountain and degrading Lake Whatcom water even further.


Lake regulations will increase development

Mon, Nov 14, 2011, 12:07 pm  //  Wendy Harris

Proposed new storm water regulations will increase Lake Whatcom development. Hearing this Thursday.

1 comments; last on Nov 14, 2011

Lake Whatcom Issues Ignored During Elections

Sun, Nov 06, 2011, 11:48 pm  //  Wendy Harris

Important events concerning the Lake occurred during the election with little comment from the public, the candidates or the media.

16 comments; last on Nov 10, 2011

Loss of trust in Washington Conservation Voters

Wed, Oct 19, 2011, 1:23 pm  //  Guest writer

Sue Taylor guest writes this perspective on WCV and their alliance with the Dan Pike for mayor campaign.

16 comments; last on Oct 23, 2011

Time To Move Forward On The Lake Whatcom Forest Preserve

Fri, Jul 22, 2011, 7:35 am  //  Wendy Harris

A pro-active, extremely cost effective solution for protecting Lake Whatcom exists!

3 comments; last on Jul 22, 2011

The Political Junkie Interviews Christina Maginnis

Mon, Jul 18, 2011, 10:03 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

The Political Junkie interviews Christina Maginnis

4 comments; last on Jul 22, 2011

Just An Insignificant Little Road

Mon, Feb 02, 2009, 8:57 am  //  g.h.kirsch

While it went almost unheralded Friday, Kremen & Co temporarily backed away from their earlier position that driving a road into the forest on Squalicum Mountain, to…

4 comments; last on Feb 03, 2009

Remember Lake Whatcom?

Mon, Dec 29, 2008, 1:13 pm  //  g.h.kirsch

At the risk of displeasing friend and foe alike, may I ask what has been accomplished this past year to fix Lake Whatcom and protect Bellingham's water supply?…

12 comments; last on Jan 02, 2009

Still the Big Hurdle for Reconveyance

Tue, Sep 30, 2008, 5:19 pm  //  g.h.kirsch

From the outset of discussion of the proposal to reconvey forest lands to the county for a new park I have written that it is necessary to first…

1 comments; last on Oct 01, 2008

Stillman Creek: Real Possibility or Scare Tactic?

Wed, Sep 17, 2008, 10:41 pm  //  Tom Pratum

This past winter, during torrential rains to the South of us, there were some very serious slides on Weyerhaeuser land in Lewis County adjacent to Stillman Creek (a…

5 comments; last on Sep 20, 2008

Deja vu All Over Again

Mon, Jun 30, 2008, 3:33 am  //  g.h.kirsch

No matter how one hopes things will change, things remain the same. Bellingham wants the county to curb development in the watershed, but can't seem to stop allowing…

2 comments; last on Jul 05, 2008

Trails to Nowhere

Sat, Jun 28, 2008, 12:16 am  //  Myron Wlaznak

I received a Notice of Complete Application for the construction of an impervious trail through the center of a parcel of forested land acquired with funds collected for…

5 comments; last on Jul 01, 2008

City hall misleading on geese kill plans

Fri, Jun 20, 2008, 12:26 pm  //  Guest writer

by Wendy Harris |
Wendy is a resident of Silver Beach on the north side of Lake Whatcom. This is her second guest writer article - and follows…


Who’ll Stop the Raid

Mon, Jun 16, 2008, 11:33 am  //  g.h.kirsch

While the Lake Whatcom Water & Sewer District races to expand its infrastructure to serve sprawling development on the north shore of the lake, the King County Superior…

2 comments; last on Jun 19, 2008

Kill Lawns, Not Geese

Sun, Jun 15, 2008, 1:17 pm  //  Guest writer

By Wendy Harris
Wendy is a resident of Silver Beach on the north side of Lake Whatcom. She is an active citizen. Today she is our first guest writer.…

9 comments; last on Jul 31, 2008

THE LAKE & ECOLOGY; Can’t Have One Without The Other

Mon, May 26, 2008, 9:51 pm  //  g.h.kirsch

Why all the hubbub about building moratoria in the Lake Whatcom watershed? You can't build or subdivide without adequate water, and the entire watershed is closed to new…

1 comments; last on Jun 01, 2008

Saving the Lake

Tue, May 20, 2008, 1:08 am  //  g.h.kirsch

Another important step towards dealing with the pollution of Lake Whatcom was taken tonight. The mayor and city council have thrown down the gauntlet to Pete Kremen and…

14 comments; last on Jun 01, 2008

Casting Our Lots in the Lake Whatcom Watershed

Fri, Apr 04, 2008, 11:42 am  //  Tom Pratum

In early February, I and several other folks met with Whatcom County Parks director Mike McFarlane to ask some questions about the proposed reconveyance of Forest Board…

3 comments; last on Sep 25, 2008

Herald editorial on Lake Whatcom land deal

Sun, Sep 30, 2007, 10:03 pm  //  John Servais

The Bellingham Herald editorial today is excellent. It raises the basic questions about the newly proposed Lake Whatcom land reconveyance deal to make a park on the very…


Lake Whatcom land deal; “technicality” loses Herald’s letters

Tue, Sep 25, 2007, 10:25 pm  //  John Servais

Tom Pratum has some good information on the proposed - and still mostly secret - Lake Whatcom land reconveyance plan. He posted it on the North Cascades Audubon…


My posts here were accurate

Sat, Sep 22, 2007, 10:40 pm  //  John Servais

The October surprise is a week early. Today's Herald has the carefully managed news of the land swap that John Watts alerted us to on Sep 11 -…


No denials in land swap accusation

Wed, Sep 12, 2007, 11:12 pm  //  John Servais

Rather than answer several emails individually, this post will clarify a couple things. First, why is yesterday's post by John Watts that I praised any different from his…


Prediction of an October Surprise

Tue, Sep 11, 2007, 11:19 pm  //  John Servais

An astounding post by John Watts this afternoon on his HamsterTalk website. He has what amounts to a prediction of an October Surprise - implying strongly that it…


Mercury in Lake Whatcom

Thu, Jun 03, 2004, 7:15 pm  //  John Servais

Today the Washington Department of Ecology released a report that says, basically, that mercury in the lake is less now than in the past. "Decreasing" is the operative…


Re: Chamber of Commerce insert in today’s Bellingham Herald

Mon, May 24, 2004, 7:22 pm  //  John Servais

The initiative is 'remove motor boats', not 'remove boats' from Lake Whatcom. Our Chamber of Commerce just lies in print to achieve their goal of defeating the initiative.


Benzene in Lake Whatcom water

Fri, Feb 13, 2004, 8:48 pm  //  John Servais

We see 1/100 of one part per billion or less of benzene to water during most of the year 2000 and into the spring of 2001. Then in…


Not political conservative but real conservative

Thu, Feb 12, 2004, 8:52 pm  //  John Servais

Motor boats off Lake Whatcom? What was that apology from City Senior Planner Chris Spens at the city council on Monday? El-bull-in-china-shop Chris got the word from el…


Mercury, anyone?

Mon, Feb 09, 2004, 8:57 pm  //  John Servais

We have mercury contamination all over our county. That we know. Lake Whatcom and Bellingham Bay. Georgia Pacific's chlorine plant leaked mercury for about 35 years and neither…


Lack of environmental enforcement

Sun, Nov 23, 2003, 4:51 pm  //  John Servais

of some local developers is plain to see in this photo essay at the Lake Whatcom website. The WA Dept of Ecology has enforcement folks tooling around in…


Very quietly, more and more liberals are

Mon, Oct 13, 2003, 7:38 pm  //  John Servais

telling me they are voting for Brett Bonner for mayor. Some very prominent ones - but they are not going public. Why not? Fear of retaliation.

Why are they…


Mayoral Debate

Wed, Oct 08, 2003, 7:51 pm  //  John Servais

The two differed strongly on several issues. The differences between them are becoming more apparent and this should continue for the next two weeks.

Brett continues to develop his…


Remember the ‘Truth Squad’?

Sun, Oct 05, 2003, 8:12 pm  //  John Servais

We need one to follow Asmundson during the next three weeks - and to nudge the Herald to do minimal checking of facts before publishing. I'm referring to…


Election Forums

Tue, Sep 30, 2003, 6:55 pm  //  John Servais

The first of three Bellingham Herald Election Forums is taking place this evening at the County Council chambers.

The forums are being broadcast live on KGMI radio, 790 AM.…


A stand must be taken to protect water quality

Wed, Jun 25, 2003, 6:07 pm  //  John Servais

Posted here because the Bellingham Herald has now ignored this for two days. Of very high importance to Bellingham - and with significant developments.

On Monday evening, the Bellingham…


The system does not work when there are no checks on state agencies

Fri, Jun 13, 2003, 1:20 pm  //  John Servais

St. Joe's Hospital will probably be facing fines for venting toxic gas into the construction area of their new addition. Our Bellingham Herald has not reported a bit…


City Council support for Clean Water Alliance

Tue, May 13, 2003, 7:00 pm  //  John Servais

The Bellingham City Council last night voted 5-2 to support the Clean Water Alliance legal action against Whatcom County's designation of Sudden Valley as an Urban Growth Area…


Very first PFD meeting finally scheduled

Mon, May 12, 2003, 4:15 pm  //  John Servais

The Bellingham City Council will finally hold its very first public hearing of the Public Facilities District (PFD) proposals next Monday, May 19, 7 pm at city hall.…



Election Info

County election results

State election results

Coal, Oil & Trains

Community Wise Bellingham
Powder River Basin R. C.

Local Blogs & News

Bellingham Herald

Bham Herald Politics Blog
Bham Politics & Economics
Cascadia Weekly
Ferndale Record
Friends of Whatcom
Get Whatcom Planning
Latte Republic
League of Women Voters
Lynden Tribune
Northern Light

Twilight Zoning
Western Front - WWU
Whatcom Watch

Local Causes

Chuckanut Community Forest

City Club of Bellingham
Conservation NW
Futurewise - Whatcom
Lake Whatcom
Lummi Island Quarry
N. Cascades Audubon
NW Holocaust Center
RE Sources
Reduce Jet Noise
Salish Sea Org.
Save the Granary Building
Transition Whatcom
WA Conservation Voters
Whatcom Peace & Justice



Port of Bellingham
Skagit County
State election results
US - The White House
WA State Access
WA State Elections
WA State Legislature
Whatcom Auditor
Whatcom Auditor
Whatcom County

Weather & Climate

Cliff Mass Weather Blog

Climate Audit
Nat Hurricane Center
NW Radar
Two day forecast
Watts Up With That? - climate


Adventures NW

Edge of Sports
Entertainment NNW
Famous Internet Skiers
Recreation Northwest
Sailing Anarchy

Good Web Sites

Al-Jazeera online

Alaska Dispatch
Arab News
Asia Times
Atlantic, The

Common Dreams
Crosscut Seattle
Daily Kos
Daily Mirror
Drudge Report
Foreign Policy in Focus
Guardian Unlimited
Gulf News
Huffington Post
Innocence Project, The
Intrnational Herald Tribune
Irish Times
James Fallows
Jerusalem Post
Joel Connelly
Juan Cole
Julia Ioffe/New Republic
Le Diplo
Media Matters
Michael Moore
Middle East Times
Nation, The
New American Century
News Trust
Online Journal
Palestine Daily
Palestine News
Paul Krugman - economics
Personal bio info
Portland Indy Media
Progressive Review
Project Vote Smart
Sea Shepherd
Stand for the Troops
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Talking Points Memo
The Crisis Papers
The Intercept
the Oatmeal
Tom Paine.com
War and Piece
Washington Votes

NwCitizen 1995 - 2007

Early Northwest Citizen

Quiet, Offline or Dead

Bellingham Police Activity

Bellingham Register
Bob Sanders
Carl Weimer
Chuckanut Mountains
Citizen Ted
Citizens of Bellingham
Cordata & Meridian
David Hackworth
Facebook Port Reform
Jack Petree
N. Sound Conservancy
No Leaky Buckets
Northwest Review
Post-Oklahoman Confessions
Protect Bellingham Parks
The American Telegraph
Wally Wonders