Las Vegas Sun

January 16, 2018

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Las Vegas officials set to decide whether to clamp down on party houses

Image

Steve Marcus

An aerial view of a residential neighborhood in Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas City Council on Wednesday will decide whether to place further restrictions on short-term rental homes. A recommending committee Monday morning pushed the proposed measure forward but was split on whether to endorse it.

The controversial bill would require homeowners interested in renting out their properties for 30 days or less to apply for a special-use permit in addition to the business license already required by the city. It would also set maximum occupancy limits, ban events and parties on the properties, and require rentals to be at least 660 feet apart from one another.

For properties with five bedrooms or more, a licensed security company must be used to respond to complaints within two hours.

Operators found violating these terms would also be subject to a two-strike policy before losing their permit or license.

The intent is to crack down on so-called party houses and preserve quality of life within residential neighborhoods. Dozens of residents in neighborhoods near downtown and the Strip have spoken out in favor of the ordinance, many sharing stories about finding sidewalks and yards littered with used condoms and empty beer bottles after troves of tourists descended into their normally peacefully neighborhood for all-night ragers.

But operators of short-term rentals say party houses are the norm and that additional restrictions will do nothing but punish the city’s existing legal operators. Opponents to the proposed bill shared their own stories about how the income from their short-term rental properties have helped keep their families afloat. They characterized their typical guests as families who wouldn’t come to Las Vegas without a nonresort lodging option or visitors with nonpartying priorities.

The Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors expressed a neutral opinion on the bill, but noted that it would like to work with the city to find alternative policy options that better balance the preservation of neighborhoods with the rights of property owners.

The bill was heard last month by a three-person recommending committee comprising Councilman Bob Coffin, Councilman Stavros Anthony and Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian, who introduced the bill and has been its most vocal champion. Tarkanian and Coffin voted for a yes recommendation. Anthony voted against it, calling it “ambiguous.”

After that meeting, the bill was eligible to move on to full council to be voted on. However, due to overwhelming public interest, the city decided to hold another recommending committee meeting to allow for additional comments and concerns to be heard.

That recommending committee, held Monday morning, was composed of Anthony, Coffin and Councilman Ricki Barlow.

Anthony and Coffin maintained their previous positions.

“There are great intentions,” said Anthony, “but if this passes nothing is going to change. Absolutely nothing will change.”

He pointed out that it has been estimated that approximately 5,000 short-term rentals are on the market in Southern Nevada, despite being banned in Henderson and unincorporated Clark County. Within the city of Las Vegas, an estimated 1,000 short-term rental units are being operated. Only 150 are licensed.

Platforms like Airbnb and VBRO have made it easy for people to list private residences as alternative lodging. Such websites tell users to follow their local municipality’s rules and regulations but do little to no policing of that on their own.

“My prediction is if this passes there will not be one special-use permit application,” Anthony said. “They’ll just operate under the radar. This particular bill doesn’t address the specific question of what are we supposed to do with these party houses? ... It just throws more regulations that will be ignored anyway. The real issue is enforcement.”

Coffin agreed that enforcement was critical but believes that tightening regulations should go hand-in-hand with it.

“We have the ability to enforce,” he said. “We just have to make the commitment. It’s possible to augment or adjust our budget for enforcement of our rules.”

He added, “In my ward, this has become a plague.”

Barlow opted not to make a recommendation, saying he needed more information about what it would take for the city to properly enforce the ordinance, should it be approved by the full council. The committee instead voted to move the proposed bill to full council without a recommendation attached.

The City Council will discuss and vote on the proposed short-term rental bill on Wednesday at City Hall, 495 S. Main St. The meeting will begin at 9 a.m. and the short-term rental item has a scheduled start time of 11:30 a.m.

The city is expecting hundreds to attend and has designated overflow parking in the Symphony Park lot. A shuttle service is scheduled to run between 6:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Visitors can also walk across the pedestrian bridge from Symphony Park to the City Hall Garage, which is located across from City Hall.

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