After quickly agreeing to recommend to the City Council that it consider amending the city code to allow permanent ambulance staging areas in commercial zones, the Twentynine Palms Planning Commission devoted its July 15 meeting to a workshop on vacation home rentals. Reporter Dan Stork reports that that work is just beginning…
The Twentynine Palms Planning Commission began its reconsideration of vacation home rentals with an hour of public comment of a general nature on the subject. After a break, the Commissioners turned to a point-by-point review of the ordinance that had been drafted in 2010, before the then-City Council pulled the plug on the subject. Tuesday night’s discussion was driven by a 15-point digest of issues that Jim Hamilton, the new Interim Development Manager for the City, had pulled from the 9-page draft ordinance. Hamilton prefaced the discussion by advising that an ordinance should be written so that there is minimum leeway in interpreting it in a particular case, so that the rules are clear and unambiguous. The Commission treated 5 of the points before adjourning, with the following consensus:
1. The issue of where VHRs may be allowed needs further discussion.
2. There should be no limit on the number of VHRs allowed in the city. (The draft set a limit of 10 city-wide.)
3. Notification of neighbors that a property is to be a VHR should be limited to 300 feet from the property, to be consistent with other notification radii in the development code. (The draft called for 1000 feet.)
4. The Commission leaned towards relaxing the rule that VHRs be limited (for the most part) to single stand-alone structures, and agreed that site and building design issues should be discussed further.
5. Commission consensus was that annual septic inspection called for in the draft ordinance was excessive, but an initial septic inspection and annual building and safety reviews are reasonable.
There was spirited public discussion on each point. Potential VHR operators stressed property rights and minimized the impact of VHRs on community life as compared with standard long-term rentals. Innkeepers claimed that they were required to operate under more stringent rules than those proposed for VHRs, and provided superior public safeguards, for an equivalent commercial service.
The Commission will return to the subject of VHRs at its August 5 meeting.

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