Top headlines from the Board of County Commissioners Meeting

Reno, NV, USA, March 24, 2021

Commissioners adopt ordinances and fees for short-term rentals in unincorporated Washoe County 

The following are highlights from today’s Washoe County Board of County Commissioners meeting:   

1. Board conducted second reading of regulations of short-term rentals and adoption of fee schedule: Commissioners held a public hearing in today’s meeting to adopt ordinances related to short-term rentals (STRs) and to adopt the fee schedule for those ordinances. Washoe County has up to 1,200 STRs depending on the season, most of which are located in the Incline Village/Crystal Bay area. They are currently not regulated by local ordinances to address issues such as parking, life-safety, or noise and occupancy limits. After two years of public outreach, research, and planning, Washoe County staff presented the ordinances in a first-reading in February this year. With the approval at today’s meeting, the ordinances will go into effect before the busy tourist season this summer, and give Washoe County staff time to collect feedback and revise the ordinances as needed before winter.  

“This has been going on for two years. I can assure you there were public meetings, extensive commissioner discussions, discussions with staff and the community. This has been very much vetted. New policy is never easy to accept or adopt, it’s very tedious work that takes a lot of time and input from a lot of different individuals,” Chair Bob Lucey said. “If we don’t move forward, and don’t have something to address these issues, short-term rentals will continue to exist, properties will be rented out, and there will be no compliance, and no recourse or help. This board will be watching this and making sure that our code enforcement offers are adhering to the needs, and if we need to amend this ordinance at any given time, we’ll do that, to address the needs of the community. This is a starting place, a starting place that has had two-plus years of dedication from our staff and community.” 

With the adoption of the ordinances, Commissioners advanced to a resolution on fees, which includes a tiered permit schedule based on occupancy and fines for violations of the ordinances. The cost to administer and enforce the ordinances is estimated around $192,000, which is expected to be paid for by STR permit fees and fines. 

“I think it’s incredibly important to move forward with this ordinance to protect the neighborhood of unincorporated Washoe County. I hear the residents of Incline Village/Crystal Bay loud and clear, and I know you’re expriecing over-tourism and it’s creating a lot issues in that community: trash, environmental, traffic issues. I’m committed to resolving these issues,” Commissioner Alexis Hill said. “Short-term rentals is one thing we’ll be tackling when we look at how we preserve Lake Tahoe, this incredible gem in our community. We’re committed to bring this ordiance back and make sure we’re doing what’s right for the community and all the homeowners in the community. I do think this ordinance will alleviate a lot of the pain the community is feeling. I really look forward to working with residents on these issues.” 

To learn more about the ordinances and fees, click here.  

2. District 1 funds allocated to four recipient groups: Each commission district is appropriated $20,000 per year for special projects introduced by their representative commissioner. Commissioner Alexis Hill, who represents District 1, introduced four projects and programs with a recommended $5,000 allocation for each. The projects are: 

  1. The Downtown Reno Partnership for a Bigbelly trash receptacle on Virginia Street  

  1. The Nevada Tahoe Conservation District for conservation-related projects in Washoe County and Lake Tahoe  

  1. The Reno Initiative for Shelter and Equality (RISE) for the Living Room community living program 

  1. The Tahoe Prosperity Center to support AlertTahoe, Connected Tahoe, Measuring for Prosperity, Tahoe Workforce Housing, and Tahoe Economic Resiliency and Recovery Plan 

3. Commissioners approved an amendment to the contract for services provided at Our Place: The Reno Initiative for Shelter and Equality (RISE) operates Washoe County’s Women and Families Shelter at Our Place, an outcome-based campus designed to create a safe and stable environment, serving more than 250 guests. Commissioners today approved a budget amendment with RISE to increase reimbursements for Washoe County’s Motel Voucher Program, and to provide additional staffing.  

Since opening the women and families program at Our Place in the summer of 2020, there has been a waitlist, despite doubling the number of beds from what was previously available for women at the Record Street Campus. To address the growing need, the Washoe County Human Services Agency received a grant from Governor Steve Sisolak’s Office to construct and remodel a home for 10 families, which opened in December 2020. 

With winter storms on the way and COVID limitations at shelters, the county implemented a Motel Voucher Program earlier this year to ensure that women have the resources available to keep them out of inclement weather. The cost to the county averaged $150,000 per month, and the need continued to grow, reinforcing the need to open an additional building on the Our Place campus.  

In March 2021, building 8C, renamed the Hope Home, was transformed into a women’s risk reduction/sober living home to accommodate 36 women, bringing the total number of beds for women at Our Place to 138 beds. The Motel Voucher Program has significantly decreased by opening the Hope Home. Contracting with RISE helped HSA reduce the motel placements from 105 women to only two in two weeks, validating the significant need for the expansion efforts.  

Today's approval of the RISE contract amendment provides an additional $200,000 to utilize the Motel Voucher Program when Our Place is full and women are awaiting placement. The program will cease when the Nevada Cares Campus opens this spring and provides a safe, sanctioned camping location. The amendment also provides for additional staffing to provide 24-hour supervision, ensuring the oversight, safety, and well-being of residents placed into the Hope Home. 

“RISE has been a phenomenal partner and operator at Our Place since its inception and I’m very supportive of them,” Chair Lucey said. “I'm happy to support this amendment of the contract to allow them to evolve Our Place. We truly are pioneering new ways to approach this, and it takes a lot of confidence,  understanding, education, and intelligence to work in this realm, and Director Howell and her team, along with RISE, have stepped up to the challenge and done that with grace and dignity.” 

4. Sheriff’s Office presented quarterly status report on jail conditions: The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office presented its quarterly report on the health, safety, staffing, and inmate conditions of the Washoe County Regional Detention Facility for the second quarter of fiscal year 2020-21. The Sheriff’s Office has taken numerous steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including canceling programming and in-person contact with inmates, pre-screening inmates prior to intake at the jail, issuing personal protective equipment, and establishing isolation units for those in quarantine. This quarter, the Sheriff’s Office has tested nearly 1,400 inmates for COVID-19, with only 127 positive results. 

“There is a percentage of people in jail who are your family members, friends, and neighbors who have made a mistake,” Chief Deputy Jeff Clark said. “That’s really Sheriff Balaam’s goal, that people are treated with respect and dignity while in jail.”  

5. Commissioners presented proclamations and achievements: Amber Howell and Kimberly Schweickert were presented the Cashman Good Government Honorable Mention Award from McDonald Carano on behalf of the Human Services Agency (HSA), for their work at the Our Place Women and Family Shelter. HSA was honored among other award recipients including the North Las Vegas City Manager, Nevada Department of Wildlife, and the Nevada System of Higher Education University Police Services.  

“Thank you to the Washoe County Commission for making Our Place possible, our HSA staff for helping me turn this vast vision into a wonderful reality and McDonald Carano for recognizing Our Place, which we believe will change so many lives for the better for many years to come,” HSA Director Amber Howell said. 

“This has been a pivotal change on how we change circumstances for so many in our community,” Chair Lucey said. “This is a path to recovery for so many individuals who for so long have been forgotten, so thank you for recognizing this work and hopefully we can continue it into the future.” 

Other special recognitions presented at the meeting included: