On Monday the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly moved an ordinance back to the Committee of the Whole that would require all short-term rentals to be registered with the city. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)

On Monday the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly moved an ordinance back to the Committee of the Whole that would require all short-term rentals to be registered with the city. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)

City stalls registration requirement for short-term rentals after public opposition

Nearly 20 residents gave testimony on the topic, many advocating for more industry input.

An ordinance requiring registration of short-term rentals in Juneau had a chance at passing the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Monday night, but instead members voted to send it back to committee for further discussion after nearly 20 residents expressed opposition during nearly two hours of public comment.

The city’s proposed program has been discussed and in the works for months. If passed, it would require operators of short-term rentals to register with CBJ, which city leaders have argued would aid in building a more comprehensive picture of the number of units in the city and help ensure sales tax compliance.

The program registration itself would be cost-free to operators. But operators could be subject to penalties if they do not comply with the city’s program requirements such as obtaining a state business license and sharing information like name, address, phone number and email of the operator, along with an emergency point of contact.

The penalties would be $25 per violation, according to the ordinance.

The vote on Monday night to move it back to the Committee of the Whole was split 5-3, with Assembly members Maria Gladziszewski, Wade Bryson, Michelle Bonnet Hale, Greg Smith and Mayor Beth Weldon voting in favor, and members Alicia Hughes-Skandijs, Christine Woll and Carole Triem voting in opposition to the move. Assembly member ‘Wáahlaal Gíídaak Barbara Blake was absent.

Triem said the program was “ripe and ready,” and pushed back at commenters who argued the city did not give enough time for public feedback.

Hughes-Skandijs agreed and said “we’ve been looking at this registration for a while.”

Contrary to many concerns expressed by public commenters, the city’s program — as it stands — would not place a limit on the number of dwellings a business or individual can operate, which differs from a bill introduced in the Alaska House of Representatives by Rep. Andrew Gray, an Anchorage Democrat, during the most recent session.

[Lawmaker introduces bill to require short-term rental registry, limits in Alaska]

The bill sought to enact a statewide short-term rental registration requirement and limit operators to just one unit per person in Alaska. However, the bill was introduced late in the session and ultimately failed to move in the committee process.

However, multiple residents Monday night argued the city’s proposed registration program was a first step and limitations would likely follow.

Tom Williams, a short-term rental operator and Juneau resident, called the ordinance “unnecessarily burdensome,” asking the Assembly to send it back to the committee and allow more input from the short-term rental industry.

“This is an expensive way to do this — not only for the operators but for the city,” he said. “This makes unnecessary requirements.”

One of the few residents who spoke in favor of the ordinance was James Brooks, a Juneau homeowner who is also a reporter for the Alaska Beacon.

Brooks said he was in favor of the ordinance, saying it took him and his wife a lot of effort to purchase a house in Juneau, and the high cost and lack of housing can often deter people who desire to live in Juneau.

“I think the growth of short-term rentals is a contributor to that problem,” he said.

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651)-528-1807.

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