Columbia Falls City Council To Host Workshop on Short-Term Rentals

The workshop is informational in nature, but the council could potentially revisit the topic at a subsequent meeting

By Mike Kordenbrock
Eastwardly view of Columbia Falls, Bad Rock Canyon, Teakettle Mountain and Columbia Mountain on Feb. 9, 2023. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The Columbia Falls City Council will host a workshop later this month on the topic of short-term vacation rentals.

The Jan. 22 workshop will give the council a chance to hear more about the number of short-term vacation rentals in the city, some of the current caselaw related to short-term rentals, and to review state law and city codes on the topic. There will also be an opportunity for public comment. Rentals are considered short-term if they are rented for a period of under 30 days.

The workshop will start at 6:30 p.m. More information on the meeting, including an agenda packet, is expected to be uploaded to the city’s website by Jan. 19.

City Manager Susan Nicosia said that the workshop is informational in its nature – the council won’t be making any decisions or entertaining procedural motions – but that the council could potentially revisit the topic at a subsequent meeting to discuss if they want to take up any code changes.  

Short-term rentals have in some cases been blamed in the Flathead Valley for contributing to the region’s housing problems by cutting into the housing supply available for permanent residents. The Columbia Falls workshop comes after the city council in the neighboring community of Whitefish voted in November 2023 to hire a short-term rental enforcement officer to try and rein in unregistered short-term rentals.

Hiring additional staff to enforce short-term rental regulations was identified in 2022 as part of a planning document, called the Whitefish Community Housing Roadmap, which was intended to help to address housing issues in Whitefish. Data from last summer referenced at the Whitefish council meeting showed approximately 705 active short-term rentals in Whitefish city limits, with only 374 that were registered with the city.

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