Planning Board Postpones Short-Term Rental Decision

Board won't likely make a decision on proposed text amendment seeking regulations until March meeting

By Molly Priddy

The Flathead County Planning Board tabled discussion on a proposed text amendment that would allow for and regulate short-term housing rentals for a period shorter than 30 days.

The board decided at its Feb. 9 meeting to continue the discussion around the idea of the short-term rentals and the text amendment that would provide regulations for these rentals located within zoned areas of Flathead County.

Proposed by the Northwest Montana Association of Realtors, the proposed amendment would change the Flathead County Zoning Regulations to allow for rental stays shorter than 30 days in a residence. Currently, the regulations only allow property owners to rent out their homes for stints of 30 days or more.

Dozens of people showed up in support of the text amendment at the planning board’s Wednesday meeting. County Planning Director Mark Mussman said the planning board members learned a bit more about what rental programs such as Airbnb and VRBO are, and how they tend to self-regulate – if a property doesn’t look good and isn’t clean, it won’t be rented.

After listening to the public comments, the planning board then debated whether to just alter the definition of a dwelling unit and get rid of the phrase mandating stays must be longer than 30 days.

However, the board backed off that idea after the members discussed that some areas of the county will be more popular than others, such as lakefront property, and there may be a need for restrictions, a process, and minimum requirements.

The board directed Mussman to look into the Lake County zoning regulations dealing with short-term rentals, but otherwise did not take any action. Mussman said the county commission, which would make the final decision on the text amendment, is prepared to receive some sort of recommendation from the planning board on the subject.

The planning board’s next meeting is March 8, though public comment on the matter is closed.

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