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'Something's got to be done': Increase in the number of Coeur d'Alene short-term rentals affecting neighborhoods

According to an analysis by Host Compliance, in August 2021 Coeur d'Alene had 228 permitted short-term rentals. Today, it has 380.
Credit: CDA Press

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — Jim Volke has had four neighbors in 22 years at his Cherry Hill home. Good folks, all.

The fifth who arrived last summer, not so much.

The home became a short-term rental. It was quiet at first, but then, it got busier. And louder.

One bachelorette party was especially memorable. Another time, a large group of young men rented the home, hung out in the backyard, drinking, barbecuing and swearing throughout the day and night.

Volke said there are times he doesn't allow his grandkids to go into his backyard, afraid of what they’ll hear.

“Something's got to be done,” Volke said Monday, following a General Services/Public Works Committee meeting in the Library Community Room to hear a city proposal to get tougher with short-term rentals.

“I think the integrity of the neighborhood is the No. 1 biggest thing,” he said.

About 25 people attended the meeting, some holding Saturday’s edition of The Press. The paper's top story that day was “Possible crackdown on short-term rentals.”

The city is taking on the matter because short-term rentals have become wildly popular, especially south of Harrison Avenue, as reported by our news partners, the Coeur d'Alene Press.

That, in turn, has led many citizens to cringe over what’s happening to their neighborhoods.

Some have said out-of-state vehicles are taking parking spaces on residential streets, there's an increase in late-night noise and more strangers wandering around.

It has also contributed to the current affordable-housing crisis by taking long-term rentals out of the picture, officials said, displacing blue-collar workers and leaving businesses struggling to fill jobs.

According to an analysis by Host Compliance, in August 2021 Coeur d'Alene had 228 permitted short-term rentals. Today, it has 380.

Of those permit holders, 184 have a homeowner’s exemption, which equates to 48% of the permits belonging to locals who live on the property where the short-term rental is located.

It’s estimated there may be about 850 total short-term rental units in Coeur d’Alene.

The city proposal to deal with short-term rentals, or STRs, includes:

• Limit STRs to owner-occupied properties within residential zones.

• Require a minimum two-night stay.

• Remove the 10- to 14-day exemption for a permit. Any STR should require a permit if there are any stays less than 30 days.

• Increase violation fees. First offense treated as a civil penalty. Subsequent offenses are subject to a civil penalty of $3,000.

• Require off-street parking.

• Require inspections by city staff.

• Hire a company to handle enforcement.

Councilman Dan Gookin supported the stronger stance to address short-term rentals.

“I was never a fan of the light touch so I’m glad we’re coming back,” he said.

“This is not going to be the city’s typical waggle the finger enforcement,” Gookin added later.

Idaho Code signed into law in 2017 prohibits a city or county from enacting or enforcing an ordinance that has the express or practical effect of prohibiting short-term rentals or vacation rentals, according to a city report.

But it granted the authority for a jurisdiction to implement “reasonable regulations as it deems necessary to safeguard the public health, safety and general welfare in order to protect the integrity of residential neighborhoods in which short-term rentals or vacation rentals operate.”

City Attorney Randy Adams said “general welfare” is very broad and a matter of interpretation.

He said the city would be in “a defensible area” in amending its ordinances regarding STRs.

Gookin said there will be pushback, but he said the city can legally regulate short-term rentals.

“We are allowed to do this under code to preserve existing neighborhoods,” he said.

Councilwoman Kiki Miller said new regulations would apply to STRs with current permits.

“They’re not grandfathered in,” she said.

Councilman Woody McEvers said the growth of STRs can be traced back to 2003 when Ironman came to town. There was a scramble for rooms and many began renting out homes for that annual event.

“I guess we kind of exasperated ourselves, being so popular,” McEvers said.

Next, the other half of the General services/Public works committee — Dan English, Christie Wood and Amy Evans — will consider the matter Sept. 12.

After that, there would be a joint workshop with the City Council and Planning Commission.

The public will have a chance to comment.

If amendments to the short-term rentals ordinance advance, they could be ready for City Council consideration in January. If adopted, they could go into effect when the next permitting period for STRs begins in March.

Ann Melbourn, who lives in the historic Fort Grounds neighborhood, hopes something is done. She said Fort Grounds has 156 parcels and of those, only 89 are owner occupied.

She said short-term rentals have been a problem that is getting worse.

“In the last six weeks it’s been really bad,” Melbourn said.

She said there are days she recognizes one of 50 people who walk by her home.

“The others are all vacation renters,” Melbourn said. “It makes a difference."

Another man who lives in a gated community said cars are often blocking sidewalks because so many visitors are staying in short-term rentals. He said it's changing the complexion of their community.

Volke said it’s been nice to see families returning to Cherry Hill and kids riding bikes. But he fears the rise of short-term rentals will drive them back out.

"I don’t know if I can do this, have a neighbor of the day, seven days a week,” he said.

The Coeur d'Alene Press is a KREM 2 news partner. For more from our partners, click here.

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