VR Moratorium Update

SJC Council voted to end the Moratorium on May 17, 2022.

Public Comments:
43 Against CAPS
21 For CAPS

Each Council Member chose a number at which to cap VRs on their island as follows:

  • San Juan: 337 (There are currently 136 active and compliant permits, 93 that are compliant but inactive, and 71 that are noncompliant)

  • Orcas: 211 (207 compliant-active / 159 compliant-inactive / 90 noncompliant)

  • Lopez: 135 (56 compliant-active / 38 compliant-inactive / 27 noncompliant)

  • Outer Islands: 10 (2 / 7)

    • TOTAL 693

What has happened between May 2022 and early 2024? Nothing!

The county has not accepted any VR applications for any islands. We have been under a full unofficial ‘moratorium’. Local officials point to the internal problems in the DCD, and ask for patience as the issues are being resolved.

Council Meeting 12-7-21



33 callers opposed extending the Moratorium

15 callers supported the Moratorium

Click here for the SJC DRAFT RESOLUTION  presented and adopted by Council (with 2 minor revisions)

PC Meeting 10-15-21

During the public access testimonies, 23 spoke against caps, 13 for caps, and 2 unknown.

HOTR sent a letter with 376 signatories, scroll down to read it!

After debate the commissioners recommended a county-wide cap of 650, with 229 on SJI, 334 on Orcas, 85 on Lopez and 2 for other islands.

650 is the number of active, compliant permits as of July 31, 2021. This effectively means there will be ZERO permits for years to come.

They also considered  giving a 3-5 year mechanism to trigger re-evaluation of the situation after data has been collected. We fully support collecting DATA! This has not yet been done. All of the Findings and Caps have been based only on anecdotal stories.

Next steps: Council will have “3 touches” on the subject, one being a Public Hearing (meaning, we have to do this again). Then they vote in January.

Click below to access the recording of the PC Meeting on 10-15-21.

376 signatures on our letter!

Thank you for the continuing support. The political process is long and repetitive. Click below to read the letter sent on 10-14-21!

Planning Commission Meeting 9-17-21

The Planning Commission voted to recommend a cap of 650 permits. When permits are given up, new ones would be distributed with a lottery system.

This is an excerpt from the Staff Report that was presented at the meeting:


N. The number of vacation rental permits countywide outside of the Master Planned Resort (MPR) designation shall not exceed a total of four-hundred and five (405).

Vacation rental permits shall be issued by lottery procedures established by the administrator and approved by the County Council.

O. The number of vacation rental permits shall not exceed the following caps:
1. Two-hundred and seven (207) on Orcas Island;
2. One-hundred and thirty-six (136) on San Juan Island;
3. Fifty-six (56) on Lopez Island;
4. Vacation rentals are prohibited on Shaw Island by SJCC 16.45.180(C);
5. Vacation rentals are prohibited on Waldron Island by SJCC 16.36.060(G); and
6. Six (6) on all other islands.

Inactive permits will have to participate in a lottery to become Active, and no new permits will be available for a very long time.

We think this is too limiting.


The county has created a new page for the VR Moratorium Project.

At the bottom there are links to all Staff Documents and Public Comments.

Planning Commission Meeting 8-20-21

Thank you, Karen Speck, for attending this long meeting, giving public comment,
and putting together the following notes.
Much appreciated!

Today I was a guest/citizen participating in the County Commissioners meeting with the Department of Community Development discussing CAPS on vacation rentals. 8:30am to 4:30pm (though the bulk of the VR discussion was until 12 noon.)

Planning Director Erika Shook reported there are 1,023 VR permits issued, however only 405 are active/compliant. The remaining are either non compliant, in violation, or not active and the Dept is in the process of contacting these owners and either getting them compliant or will begin a revocation process.

After taking public comment in the meeting with, by my tally, 11 persons commenting to place CAPS on VRs, 12 saying no do not, and 5 callers with comments that left me unsure where they stood, the Commissioners voted unanimously to CAP VRs at the current 405 active/in compliance referencing the current (207 Orcas, 136 San Juan Is., 56 Lopez, 6 Outer Islands.)

The Planners will now write up this recommendation, it goes to the County Council (Stephens, Wolf, Minney) and they vote on it and there will be another round of public input. I do not know if the CAPS are approved by the Council - if they start immediately and the moratorium is lifted, or if the moratorium runs its course and then the new law goes into effect.

If you have thought about applying for a VR Permit, and if you are not in the restricted/moratorium areas, now is the time. If I understood Ms Shook correctly, people in the pipeline will not be denied, if they comply otherwise. It would only be those who wish a VR permit, after the CAPS fully pass.

For the LINK to the recording, click below!

Proposed VR Motion to PC

See Planning Commissioner Steve Smith's
"Proposed Vacation Rental Motion"
that he will present on August 20.

The Tables in the beginning are worth a look.

See Table 9, "Long Term Renters compared to Compliant VRs"

And Tables 11a-e! VRs are the TINY red lines.

One of his deductions is particularly accurate:

"A prohibition on new permits may slow but will not stop the loss of long-term rentals, as people buying rentals and converting them to owner-occupied homes is likely to continue. Any limit on new VRs will not fix the existing issues."

his Motion has several disturbing recommendations, such as:

  1. "Possible causes of a suspended permit

    1. Filing a late, incomplete, or inaccurate annual report.

    2. Failure to pay all permit fees and/or fines in a timely manner.

    3. Renting the property to more guests than permitted. (The burden of proof should be on enforcement.) (Each permit holder should be required to ask each renter to certify that no guests in excess of the allowed number will be on the property and, if the permit holder becomes aware of such, to terminate the stay. There will be a night time limit and a separate day time limit.)"

Council Meeting 8-10-21

Public Access Comments (2) at 15:00
Valerie Jusela wants all VRs to be suspended until it's been proven that each has at least $1 million of liability insurance

Toby Cooper wants us to be responsible for emergency preparedness items for our guests.

VR Update by Erika Shook at 2:00:42
The PC began working on caps but did not make much progress so will continue at August 20 meeting.

Council Member Cindy Wolf asked how VR regs will be addressed through Comp Plan Revision currently underway. Erika Shook replied that the Comp Plan will only include Goals and Policies that talk about VRs, not actual regulations. The PC will work on regulations after the revision is complete.

Still to be decided: how many permits will be available each year (Caps). The choices:

1- At a lower level than the current number
(translation: good luck ever getting a permit)

2- At the current level
(that means no new permits anywhere in the county until existing permits are given up or removed)

3-A slightly higher level
(there will be a few new permits each year, but the system to get one has not been determined)


Monday July 12th 11:30 AM

This meeting was specifically to gather public comments regarding extending the Moratorium and setting county-wide Caps.

Thank you for calling in!

Editorial Letter by Linda Bannerman



Jamie Stephens, County Council Chair

Doug Whittaker, Confluence Research & Consulting

Jan Scilipoti, in support of VR owners.

Toby Cooper, representing the (anti) Vacation Rental Working Group.

June 9    Discovery (watch recording here)

June 17   Common Ground (watch recording here)

June 24    Collaborative Action ( to be rescheduled)

CAPS discussed at Council Meeting

Tuesday May 18, 2021 Council Meeting

The county is currently 3 months into a 6-month period during which Council is hoping to implement Caps on VRs.

Click below for the RECORDING of the meeting!


Minute 5:00:

Four people called in during public access: Tim Blanchard (former Planning Commissioner), Linda Bannerman, Toby Cooper and Jan Scilipoti.

Minute 37:40

Erika Shook presented 4 options for Caps. Council members debated and gave direction to the Planning Department to look into fixed, not floating, caps. The numbers suggested as a limit are barely higher than the number of permits we currently have. A lottery system seems to be preferred, as the ADU lottery system is already in place.

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