By Deb Murphy
Inyo County’s Board of Supervisors dealt with a couple of sticky land use issues at Tuesday’s meeting: short-term rentals and how to deal with storage/shipping containers in residential areas. The former will be the subject of community outreach; the latter, possibly, with a modification to zoning ordinances and a no-cost route for temporary storage.
First: short-term rentals, commonly referred to as Airbnbs just one of the internet sites that have fueled the rental of whole houses or simply rooms to visitors. Acting Planning Director Cathreen Richards presented a list of alternatives ranging from out-right prohibition to allowing them with regulations and avenues for licensing and permitting. According to Richards, Airbnb alone lists 52 rentals in Inyo County with four in Bishop.
Those avenues include a Conditional Use Permit or zoning overlays. Both require public hearings at the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors giving the complaining public a chance to voice its concern.
Only two people spoke during the public comment period. A Lone Pine resident said she found the existence of a short-term rental in her neighborhood “unsettling,” but had no issues. A McLaren resident didn’t want “strange people in and out of the neighborhood.”
County Treasurer/Tax Collector Alisha McMurtrie felt if the regulations, licensing and permitting process were too expensive it would simply drive the practice underground. The only inquiries she’s had were from residents interesting in setting up short-term rentals.
The community outreach meetings will be held sometime in June or July in Bishop, Big Pine, Lone Pine and Tecopa.
Next up: storage containers. According to Richards, complaints came in on three separate storage containers, currently regulated as “accessory structures” with set-back restrictions. A temporary container that’s been sitting in the front yard of a West Bishop for the last year generated a number of complaints to Supervisor Rick Pucci. The owner complied with zoning set-backs which didn’t easy the complaints since the container was still in the resident’s front yard.
Considering the current short-staffing in the Planning Department, Supervisor Dan Totheroh asked where the issue stood in terms of priorities. Richards admitted it wasn’t “real high,” but staff could work on it when time allowed. Supervisor Jeff Griffith was “hesitant to restrict what people do with their property,” but suggested the containers “have to be in the backyards at the most.”
One solution was a Conditional Use Permit at a cost of roughly $1,500. County Administrative Officer Kevin Carunchio suggested prohibiting the containers in front yards on a temporary basis without a zoning variance, a no-cost substitute for the CUP.
That solution seemed acceptable by the Board.