SOUTH BEND — A process that began last year appeared to come to a close on Tuesday, Sept. 8, when the Pacific County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to adopt an ordinance that prohibits new short-term vacation rental permits in the Restricted Residential (R-1) zoning district.

The vote came after a recommendation in August from the Pacific County Planning Commission to move forward with a ban on new vacation rental permits. The planning commissioners argued that the county’s zoning ordinance makes clear that the R-1 zone was established with the intent of being free of commercial uses, such as vacation rentals.

The R-1 zone “is established to promote and protect the single-family character of selected developed or developing neighborhoods,” Pacific County zoning ordinance No. 184 says. “It is the intent of the [R-1 zone] to protect and stabilize property values by restricting the type of housing and limiting the range of current use patterns in order to provide for a wholesome home environment free of traffic congestion, noise and incompatible land uses.”

Pacific County Planning Director Tim Crose said existing vacation rentals in the R-1 zone will be able to maintain their license each year, as long as the rental is not in violation of the county’s already existing non-conforming use regulations. Vacation rentals remain permitted in all other zoning districts.

According to new regulations adopted by the county commission earlier this summer, new vacation rentals in R-2 and R-R zoning districts are required to have a radius of at least 300 feet — from all property lines — from any other vacation rental property. The county’s occupancy limit of a maximum of 10 people, regardless of the size of the vacation rental or what zoning district it resides in, also remained intact.

Throughout the months-long process, the new restrictions on vacation rentals were fiercely opposed by members of the real estate industry and second homeowners who rented out their property when not using it. They argued the restrictions will be damaging to themselves and the local economy.

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