Concerns over East Lewis County Airbnbs have the Morton City Council mulling over potential new ordinances — an attempt to quell noise and garbage issues. And while Lewis County commissioners took up the issue this week as well, it appears unlikely that the county will take action.
At a Tuesday meeting with the prosecutor Commissioner Gary Stamper acknowledged noise and garbage concerns directed at Airbnbs, an online provider of short-term rentals, in Packwood.
“But I’ve been talking to a few people who are actually provided employment because of those Airbnbs, so there’s two sides to every coin on this,” said Stamper, whose district includes most of East Lewis County. “I don’t know if there’s anything that the county can really do.”
In Morton, the issue arose only in recent months, according to Mayor Dan Mortensen. City councilors are still considering their options. In a conversation with The Chronicle, Mortensen said there are two “unknowns”: how the city would regulate Airbnbs, and if the city needs to regulate them at all.
Morton already has noise, parking and garbage-related ordinances.
“And we don’t want to reinvent the wheel,” Mortensen said.
Still, he said councilors are taking a look at what other cities have done to regulate short-term rentals. Several cities in the U.S. and abroad have enacted strict laws impacting Airbnbs, like New York City, where renting an apartment for less than 30 days is illegal. Other laws force hosts to obtain a license, reside on the premises or pay certain taxes.
According to Stamper, the county’s own conversation was sparked by concerns coming from Packwood. Packwood is unincorporated, with no city council, and falls directly under county regulations.
A quick search for summer Airbnb rentals in Packwood turns up more than a hundred options (although many are hotel rooms rather than personal residences), ranging from $86 to $600 per night.
The county has some laws already in place that impact those rentals. For example, a noise ordinance prohibits excessive noise from 10 p.m. to 7 p.m. A dispute between neighbors — reportedly blasting daytime music at the expense of each other this year — prompted the county to reevaluate that regulationthis year, although no changes were ultimately made.
Stamper first brought up the Airbnb issue earlier this month, citing concerns from Packwood as well as an Airbnb in his own neighborhood that drew criticism for using high amounts of water while occupied by several people.
“We don’t want more government. I mean, no one wants more government,” he said back then.
“But at the same time I think we need to take a look at it to see if we can help them.”