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Las Vegas City Council delays vote to expand short-term rentals

Updated January 16, 2019 - 7:39 pm

A proposal to regulate short-term rentals in Las Vegas multifamily developments was criticized Wednesday by residents of a downtown high-rise who cast the measure as a reversal in the long-standing fight against illegal home-sharing.

The bill, sponsored by Councilman Bob Coffin, would allow 5 percent of all units in a development to rent out homes for fewer than 31 days, a practice that has risen in popularity with the advent of platforms like Airbnb and HomeAway.

It was a companion bill to an ordinance passed last month that limits new permits to owner-occupied homes and set a distance of 660 feet between vacation rentals.

But Coffin’s bill would recalibrate how officials regulate quantity in high-rises, removing the distance requirement in exchange for percentage, while also eliminating the owner-occupied provision that probably will drastically reduce new short-term rentals in neighborhoods.

For residents in The Ogden, the polestar of opposition to illegal home-sharing, the proposal would undo the goodwill reached by the original bill, which most believed was a compromise to calls for an outright ban.

The downtown high-rise maintains 275 units on 15 residential floors and has one legal short-term rental in the building. A 5 percent provision would allow up to 13.

“You have an ordinance before you that doesn’t increase the protection but significantly and dramatically decreases the protection” of quiet use and enjoyment, said Kevin Christensen, an attorney who represents opponents of short-term rental expansion.

Coffin, who successfully lobbied Wednesday to delay a vote, said the bill was meant to push The Ogden’s homeowner’s association to officially address short-term rentals.

“It’s a brute-force method to get them to amend their (covenants, conditions and restrictions),” he said later by phone.

The association is reportedly voting on amendments this week. Jeff Belcher, an HOA board member who “strongly opposed” the bill, told the council that the amendments would give the board more enforcement power on illegal home-sharing.

Councilman Stavros Anthony, one of three council members who shot down delaying the bill and sought to kill it, denounced the “un-American” spirit of the measure for its central focus on The Ogden.

“That’s not fair. That’s not right,” Anthony said. “And in fact, I think it’s illegal to actually do that.”

Coffin rejected that the bill targeted The Ogden, saying that it applies to all multifamily developments and noting the city’s legal counsel would never draft an illegal proposal. He said “there was no way to predict” whether the bill will pass, although it might act as a template to amending the current rule.

The bill must be voted on by Feb. 20, or it will die.

Courthouse funding

The council approved issuing general obligation building bonds not to exceed $40 million to pay for the new downtown municipal courthouse southeast of City Hall.

That money will be combined with $23.5 million that Las Vegas will receive from Clark County buying the city out of its lease at the Regional Justice Center, where city courtrooms are located, officials said.

The new four-story municipal courthouse comes with a $59.3 million price tag approved by policymakers in October.

Developer Molasky Group of Cos. is the contractor for the nearly 140,000-square-foot facility expected to start construction in May and finish before January 2021.

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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