Rows of houses line the Douglas Highway in late May. On Monday night the City and Borough of Juneau passed an ordinance that requires all short-term rentals to be registered with the city. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)

Rows of houses line the Douglas Highway in late May. On Monday night the City and Borough of Juneau passed an ordinance that requires all short-term rentals to be registered with the city. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)

Juneau Assembly passes controversial short-term rental registration requirement

Operators will now be required to register with the city by October.

Short-term rental operators in Juneau will soon be required to annually register with the city following an ordinance passed by the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Monday night despite public opposition.

The registration requirement was OK’d in a unanimous vote during the Assembly’s Monday night meeting and is slated to go into effect in October (90 days following its adopting Monday night), meaning operators of short-term rentals must register with the CBJ sales tax office or be subject to penalties.

The registration requirement — which is cost-free to operators — will not place a limit on the number of dwellings a business or individual can operate, contrary to many concerns previously expressed by residents. However, Assembly member Michelle Bonnet Hale said regulations could soon follow.

“There is the possibility that regulation might be coming,” Hale said. “This is the first step — we can’t regulate if we don’t know what our universe is — so that might be happening and I don’t want to pretend that might not be happening.”

The idea for a registration requirement has been discussed by the city and in the works for months. City administrators argue the registration will assist in ensuring compliance with sales tax and hotel-bed tax requirements, along with giving the Assembly and public a clearer image of the amount of short-term rentals operating in the capital city.

The ordinance was previously stalled and sent back for further discussion in early June after nearly 20 residents expressed opposition during nearly two hours of public comment.

According to the ordinance, operators will be subject to penalties of $25 per violation 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. Operators will also be required to give a general description of the short-term residential rental unit including address, property type, number of bedrooms and capacity.

The ordinance describes short-term rentals as “a dwelling unit that is rented, leased, or otherwise advertised for occupancy for a period of less than 30 days.”

Tom Williams, a short-term rental operator and Juneau resident, offered public testimony at the meeting on the topic for the second time, speaking as he did previously in opposition to the ordinance.

Williams said he was disappointed the city did not facilitate a “roundtable” discussion between the city and industry leaders to talk about “real concerns” prior to the Monday night meeting, and expressed concern the city would begin targeting short-term rental operators following the ordinance’s passing.

Dawn Dulebohn, a Douglas resident and a short-term rental operator, agreed and said she was appalled by the ordinance which she said targets small businesses such as hers. She expressed concern that the ordinance “ is just a step toward future restrictions.”

“I feel like this move by the Assembly is just another and a growing list of actions showing that the city does not support local and or small businesses,” she said, continuing “I urge the city to stop targeting short-term rental options and actually find viable housing options.”

Assembly member Wade Bryson pushed back at commenters’ arguments that the city did not listen to local operators and rushed the ordinance through without sufficient discussion.

“This ordinance did not just come about overnight or something that was pushed quickly through — we had multiple, multiple discussions on the topic,” he said.

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

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