Permits for Parties?

Planning Commission Looks at Permit Requirements After Complaints

A not-so-mini storm of dissent blew into the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission meeting last week as word spread about possible new permits and associated fees for people looking to rent out their property for weddings, fundraisers, and other assorted events. The fear among many of the small army of public commenters — most of whom either own a large parcel of land and occasionally rent it out to help make ends meet or work for catering companies, bartender services, or a similar event-production service — was that the proposed conditional-use permit (CUP) requirement and its associated six-digit price tag would strike a potential death blow to their livelihoods.

Interestingly enough, as it turns out, the county has actually had a CUP requirement on the books for any “for-profit special event” since 2004 but has rarely, if ever, actually had anyone apply for it. (Planning and Development only enforces the permit on a complaint basis, so, generally speaking, the lack of a permit is not often a problem.) Last week’s discussion was, thanks to a series of complaints throughout the county over the past year or so from concerned neighbors, centered around closing the current loophole in the aforementioned policy that exists for private properties that get rented out for short-term “vacations” but are actually used as wedding sites or some other “for profit” type of event.

In the end, the commissioners — simultaneously recognizing the inherent oddity of people crying foul about a policy that actually has been in place for more than half a decade but that they honestly had no idea about, as well as the need to get better control of the “party palace” phenomenon — voted unanimously to have their staff facilitate the formation of a stakeholder group on the topic and work toward a compromise that all those involved can live with. The matter is due back at the commission on October 12.

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