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Ketchum moves short-term rental ordinance forward

View of mountains around Ketchum on a bright, blue sky day
City of Ketchum

The Ketchum City Council passed the first reading of an ordinance Monday night which would require property owners to get a special permit to rent on sites like Airbnb and Vrbo.

Ketchum said the number of short-term rentals in the city is growing. But instead of limiting how many there can be in certain zones, like Sandpoint, it’s focusing on the health and safety of guests and neighbors.

Under the new rules, short-term rental property owners would have to post a fire safety plan and identify a local manager who can respond to issues.

Seth Martin is the city's assistant fire chief. His biggest safety concern is that an owner or investor could turn an entire building into short-term rentals.

“And there’s no regulations on it like there would be in a hotel," he said.

A previous draft of the ordinance would’ve required updates on units in older buildings for things like fire sprinklers. But after a backlash from property owners, city officials decided to essentially grandfather in existing rentals with potentially outdated safety features.

The Idaho Association of Realtors objected to Ketchum imposing standards on property simply due to its use as a short-term rental.

Council member Michael David still thinks the new ordinance will help the city get a handle on short-term rentals, especially because of the requirement to get a permit.

“It’s going to tell us how many of these units are out there, and it’s going to give the first responders the ability to do what they need to do," he said.

Ketchum estimates only 65% of short-term rentals in the city have a business license — which means local option tax revenue is being left on the table.

Continuing to operate a short-term rental without a permit could now result in an $100 fine each day the violation occurs.

The first reading of the ordinance passed 3-0 during Monday night's council meeting. Council member Jim Slanetz voluntarily recused himself from the vote because he said he owns "two or three" short-term rentals.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen 

Copyright 2021 Boise State Public Radio

I cover environmental issues, outdoor recreation and local news for Boise State Public Radio. Beyond reporting, I contribute to the station’s digital strategy efforts and enjoy thinking about how our work can best reach and serve our audience. The best part of my job is that I get to learn something new almost every day.

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