Chelan County has proposed amendments to its zoning code which, if adopted, would permit very large absentee owner STRs in all residential neighborhoods. We almost didn’t catch this proposal because the changes aren’t in the STR section of the code. They are in the Sections of the code dealing with Small Scale Recreational or Tourist Use (Sections 14.98.1795 and 11.93.370). This is an existing zoning category intended to provide for small scale recreational and tourist facilities such as religious camps, retreat centers, campgrounds, RV parks, guide services etc. This zoning category is allowed in all residential zones with a Conditional Use Permit.
The County proposes to add a new type of use to this category: retreat facilities. It also adds new definitions for both retreat centers and retreat facilities. Retreat Centers may have up to 50 total guests with no mandatory requirement for an onsite property manager. Similarly, a Retreat Facility can have up to 36 guests with no onsite property manager or employees. Under these definitions, any large home could call itself a retreat center or a retreat facility and apply for a CUP in any residential zoning district. And unlike the strict requirements for operations in the STR section of the code, the Small Scale Recreation or Tourist Use code section is very general.
To put it bluntly, we are outraged that the county has proposed this change. The STR code took over two years of work and multiple hearings and thousands of hours of volunteer time to try to get reasonable protections for residents. The matter is currently before the Planning Commission. We have submitted comments and will continue to stay involved.