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A county's regulation of short-term rentals might violate Arizona law

Gila County supervisors recently passed an ordinance to regulate short-term rentals like Airbnb, but a state lawmaker says the local rules violate state law.

State lawmakers have routinely blocked efforts to regulate short-term rentals, or STRs, in the past few years, but in some areas like Gila County, which includes Payson, the appetite for restrictions is running high. Complaints about the rentals in those communities include noise, overcrowding, trash issues and a lack of parking for nearby homes.

“They’re basically running motels in our private neighborhoods,” residents Jeff and Susan Boyce wrote of STRs in a letter to Gila County officials.

In December, Gila County supervisors voted to regulate those rentals. 

“We’ve had people that say they can't even get into their driveways to get into their houses, because 45 people park on the streets and cross over their driveways, and they literally are held hostage,” Gila County Community Development Director Randy Pluimer said at the county board meeting.

But Sen. Wendy Rogers (R-Flagstaff) filed a request to Attorney General Kris Mayes on March 25 asking her to investigate whether the county’s new ordinance is legal. Rogers argues in her letter to Mayes that some of the local provisions go too far and violate state law.

Rogers did not respond to a request for comment.

Under state law, a county may only regulate STRs under specific circumstances. All elements of the Gila County ordinance are designed to fit those circumstances, but some go a little further than what statute explicitly allows.

For example, state law says that a county may limit or prohibit the use of STRs to prevent housing sex offenders. 

To that end, Gila County’s regulation requires property owners to perform background checks on clients, though background checks aren’t mentioned in state law.

Other Gila County regulations limit guest occupancy to two people per bedroom and require property owners to display maps of a residence’s floor plan.

Compliance with state law was an issue that supervisors like Woody Cline expressed some trepidation about back in December.

“I don’t get the warm fuzzy feeling that we’ve covered every angle of it we could have, or should have to make this decision,” Cline said before voting.

But Pluimer said his team pulled specifically from state statute when designing the restrictions in the Ordinance. 

“We can't stop short-term rentals. The state does not allow us to say no. … But they did put in these safeguards,” he told supervisors in December. The board ultimately gave the ordinance their unanimous approval.

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Camryn Sanchez is a field correspondent at KJZZ covering everything to do with state politics.