Amid late legislative flurry, amended nightly rental bill passes | ParkRecord.com

Amid late legislative flurry, amended nightly rental bill passes

In other legislation, Zion Curtain falls and tourism spending remains steady

On the last day of the state legislative session, Park City officials were pleased with the final version of a bill aimed at restricting a municipality's ability to curb nightly rentals.

Earlier versions of H.B. 253, sponsored by Rep. John Knotwell, a Republican from Herriman, would have prevented cities and counties from enforcing ordinances prohibiting residents from offering owner-occupied properties as short-term rentals through online services such as VRBO and Airbnb.

After an amendment made Thursday on the Senate floor, however, the bill merely stops cities and counties from fining or citing a homeowner for advertising a property as a short-term rental. Municipalities like Park City would still be able to enforce zoning rules that prohibit the actual act of renting out a home on nightly rental websites.

Currently, nightly rentals are not allowed in large portions of neighborhoods such as Prospector, Park Meadows and Thaynes Canyon.

The bill was passed by the Senate Thursday and approved by Speaker of the House Greg Hughes. As of Friday morning, it awaited a signature from Gov. Gary Herbert.

Assistant Park City Manager Matt Dias, who was among several city officials lobbying Knotwell regarding the bill, said the amendment addresses the city's concerns with the earlier versions of the legislation. Unlike other municipalities, the city doesn't troll nightly rental websites to find potential violators — it instead relies on neighborhood complaints — meaning the bill will do little to change the town's operations.

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"In our mind, it's just kind of a messaging bill now," he said. "It means you can't fight someone for the advertising component of it. … For us, that's a far better outcome than losing the primary local zoning control that we would have lost in the bill's initial form."

Dias added that city leaders appreciated Knotwell's willingness to work with them to find a measure of compromise in the bill.

"Working with Rep. Knotwell, he's been a very honest broker," he said. "We've worked a lot with him … and he understands that Park City is kind of acutely impacted by the nightly rental industry. We have a high regard for him, although we weren't necessarily on the same side of the issue."

Zion Curtain ready to fall

Utah's infamous "Zion Curtain," for restaurants that choose to tear it down, may finally be dead.

On Wednesday, both chambers of the Legislature passed H.B. 442, which drastically overhauls some of Utah's most controversial liquor laws. Chief among them is the so-called Zion Curtain, the partition required in restaurants to prevent patrons from seeing the pouring of alcoholic beverages.

If signed into law by Herbert, H.B. 442 would give restaurants two alternatives to the Zion Curtain. In addition to simply keeping the partitions, they could create a 10-foot zone around the bar where minors aren't allowed without an adult, or construct a 42-inch railing or wall that delineates the bar from the dining area.

The bill also gets rid of dining club licenses. Owners of dining clubs — which are often nearly identical to restaurants but don't allow minors — would have until July of 2018 to decide to become either a bar or a full-service restaurant.

The restaurant industry, which has fought for years to do away with the Zion Curtain, has supported the bill. Hans Fuegi, a Park City restaurateur who leads the Utah Restaurant Association's liquor task force, has called it a fair compromise.

Tourism fund remains steady

The Tourism Marketing Performance Fund (TMPF), a pool of money the Park City Chamber/Bureau taps into to supplement domestic and international marketing efforts, will receive $21 million for the second straight year. Lawmakers included $18 million in the base business, economic development and labor budget but added another $3 million through supplemental appropriations.

That money is vital for the Chamber/Bureau, which receives around $300,000 annually for joint marketing efforts with the Utah Office of Tourism.