Planning Commission approves short-term vacation rental, leaves room for discussion


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On Dec. 15, the Winters Planning Commission discussed a proposal to allow an unhosted short-term vacation rental use within an existing one-story two-bedroom single-family dwelling unit located at 205 Main St. that is requesting a maximum overnight occupancy of six guests.

Before the discussion could begin, Assistant City Attorney Martin de los Angeles reminded commission members of conflict of interest laws, noting that at least one commissioner lives within 500 feet of the property in question. As a result, Commissioner Chris Rose recused himself from this portion of the meeting. 

Senior City Planner Kirk Skierski summarized the proposal for the commission.

Located west of Downtown, the property is developed with a single-story two-bedroom, one-bathroom residence that is approximately 1,514 square feet. The residence was originally owned and operated by the neighboring church located at 201 Main St., but has since been sold and separated from the church property. The property includes an approximately 20-foot by 40-foot parking pad in the back of the property, and Skierski noted that the applicant recently informed staff guests will be able to park entirely on-site, meaning they won’t need to park on the street.

Skierski also explained the city’s vacation home requirements that all vacation rental properties must abide by. These standards rules include “renters cannot exceed guest per bedroom plus two additional guests,” renters must “comply with the city’s noise requirements,” and the property owner must “have an authorized agent to be available by phone or be able to come to the site within 24 hours.” Finally, “no commercial activities are permitted as part of vacation rentals, it’s simply lodging accommodations, and all vacation rentals are subject to an annual review.”

Skierski presented the Planning Commission with the option to approve this application if they felt “all the required findings can be made” including “that the project complies with the General Plan, that it’s consistent with the intent and purpose of the zoning district, doesn’t detrimentally impact the character of the neighborhood, or would impact public safety, or welfare.”

Skierski told the commission the staff’s recommendation that it’s their opinion that, “the proposed vacation rental can be approved,” especially if guests can park on-site.  

In the public hearing, a number of residents voiced their concerns with the project. 

Christina Cogdell noted that there are housing needs unmet in Winters and that she would prefer to have a permanent neighbor engaged in the community.

Marsha Gibbs said that in her over two decades living across the street from the property, it has mostly gone unlived in, and questioned how the city will regulate these types of short-term vacation rentals and whether this rented property will contribute to the community.

Chair Gregory Contreras asked Skierski to clarify the city’s codes with short-term vacation rentals. 

“Currently, the City of Winters regulates vacation rentals on a case-by-case basis,” Skierski answered, “so we haven’t necessarily adopted a limit threshold,” and that it is up to the Planning Commission to determine if each new application is in line with the city’s requirements. He noted that up to this point, five of these types of homes have been approved. And that for each public hearing, the community has expressed concern, meaning the City Council may direct staff to change the city’s policy on vacation rentals.

Contreras said in these cases, “there is (an) inherent conflict between individual property rights,” of homeowners renting out their property and their neighbors this rental can affect.

Commissioners unanimously approved the application. 

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