Sonoma County rental owners will need permits in 2011

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved Tuesday the final and most disputed piece of a new ordinance that will govern residential-style vacation rentals in the county.

At issue was what kind of permit to require for new and existing rentals when the ordinance takes effect in January.

Supervisors decided that existing rentals with up to six guest rooms, including up to two structures, will require a basic $150 zoning permit.

New rentals qualifying for a zoning permit will be limited to five guest rooms, including up to two structures.

The remaining rentals, including new units with more than five guest rooms and existing rentals with seven or more guest rooms or more than two structures will require a use permit, which can run up to $3,800.

The rules affect up to 640 rentals in the county but do not apply to units along the coast.

Other limits on noise, daytime and nighttime guests and pets were approved at a September board meeting.

The issue has generated controversy and strong opposition from rental owners, managers and real estate interests.

About a dozen speakers voiced their worries about the ordinance Tuesday, with some saying it was too heavy-handed and others saying it would harm the county's tourism industry.

Supervisors seemed relieved to reach a final decision after working on the issue for more than a year.

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