Kalispell Implements Regulations on Short-Term Rentals

The council agreed to a 2-percent cap on all homes in residential zones

By Dillon Tabish

Kalispell approved new regulations on short-term rentals, implementing a cap on the number of homes in residential zones in city limits that can be rented for under 30 days.

The city council voted 8-1 on Dec. 5 to establish new rules for vacation rentals, which have proliferated in recent years through websites such as Airbnb and VRBO. The council agreed to a 2-percent cap on all homes in residential zones. The 2-percent cap, based on U.S. Census data, effectively limits the number of vacation rentals to roughly 200.

Kalispell had nearly 40 last fall, according to research by city officials. Among the requirements to operate a short-term rental in any zone, an owner must obtain an administrative conditional use permit from the city, receive an inspection by the building department that meets safety standards and the county health department and receive a public accommodation license from the state. Owners are also required to check to ensure there are not any covenants that restrict short-term rentals in that area. The conditional use permit lead to the city notifying other property owners within 150 feet of the rental and allow for public comment.

City councilor Tim Kluesner said the cap would establish a base line for Kalispell and allow for possible modifications in the future.

Councilor Rod Kuntz said the city was only focusing on the potential negative side of short-term rentals instead of considering the benefits. Short-term rentals rely on owners maintaining the property and keeping it clean and attractive, which could improve neighborhoods, Kuntz said.

“In 20 years we should be so lucky to have (vacation rentals),” he said.

Councilor Kari Gabriel agreed with Kuntz, saying short-term rental owners “self police” themselves in order to attract visitors.

Councilor Chad Graham was the lone opposition, raising concerns about the rentals hurting the integrity of traditional residential neighborhoods. He proposed an unsuccessful amendment that would only allow owners to rent their primary residence.

“I do think this is going to have a negative impact down the line for our neighborhoods,” he said.

“I’m kind of a believer of nipping it in the bud.”

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