Rental owners file claim against city

Patrick Evans
Mad River Union

TRINIDAD – Vacation rental owners filed two damage claims for tens of thousands of dollars against the City of Trinidad Wednesday, Sept. 14.

The claimants, owner of Redwood Coast Vacation Rentals Mike Reinman and home owners Michael and Gail Covney, accuse the seaside village of unlawfully prohibiting them from operating two vacation rentals on one parcel of land.

Trinidad’s vacation rental ordinance limits vacation rentals to one per parcel of land. Reinman and the Covneys argue that their two rentals operated for years before Trinidad’s ordinance was created, and should be exempt as a lawful preceding nonconforming use.

They seek a minimum $40,000 in damages per year since their second rental was prohibited under Trinidad’s vacation rental ordinance.

In an interview with the Union in August, Reinman said he supported most of Trinidad’s vacation rental ordinance, but was opposed to retroactively applying the ordinance to preexisting rentals.

“People have an inherent right to use their houses as vacation rentals if they had been prior to the ordinance,” Reinman said.

“That is a big thing, because the aspects of the existing ordinance are not consistent [with those rights].”

Reinman did not mention filing damages during the interview. In July this year Reinman was found in violation of Trinidad’s vacation rental ordinance after Trinidad residents complained about noise and overflowing parking at a rental home under Redwood Coast management.

Neighbors said that renters were up late one night in March partying, wandering the street and parking cars. According to a letter to the city from the vacation rental owner, the home was rented by a group of military veterans from a medical marijuana advocacy group who had made reservation mistakes and hosted extra members who didn’t have a hotel room that night.

City Manager Dan Berman determined that Reinman was in violation of the rental ordinance’s noise regulations and limit on guests allowed overnight.

Reinman protested the decision but was denied an appeal to the Trinidad Planning Commission.

“When someone complains about a renter it needs to be done in a way where a property manager or renter is not being harassed, it needs to be done in a fair way,” Reinman said.

Reinman and the Goveny’s claims were presented to the Trinidad City Council by Redding attorney Walter McNeill during council meeting Sept 14. McNeill is a specialist in fee litigation, municipal, real-estate and environmental law.

The attorney has drawn the ire of Trinidad residents for attending city council meetings and sparring over the rental ordinance with the city attorney and city coucilmembers. McNeill has sent several letters to the city council in the past year challenging the city’s ordinance and legal justifications on behalf of a group of rental owners and managers called Property Owners of Rentals in Trinidad (PORT.)

McNeil has said that Trinidad’s 2015 moratorium on rental licenses was a violation of California law regulating emergency moratoriums.

The law, government code 65858, contains a stipulation that emergency moratoriums not be filed for the same reason consecutively. McNeil said that the city’s 2015 moratorium on rental licenses was illegal because Trinidad issued a similar emergency moratorium on rentals in 2009.

In an interview with the Union in August prior to the filing of damage claims, Trinidad city attorney Andrew Stunich said that McNeill’s opinion is wrong.

“I didn’t think it’s factual or legally correct, it’s not the same reason,” Stunich said.

Stunich said that the first moratorium in 2009 was intended to give the city time to create an ordinance, while the 2015 moratorium was to give the city time to amend its ordinance. He said Trinidad’s position had been reviewed by an unnamed independent attorney.

“We sent it to another independent city attorney, that attorney agreed we were correct. It made me feel extra confident in my analysis,” Stunich said.

Trinidad is near to finishing a draft amendment to its vacation rental ordinance after more than a year of discussion and rewriting. The city will likely have its first public reading of the amendment draft at the monthly city council meeting in October, according to city manager Dan Berman. The council will then take 30 days of public comment before voting to adopt the amendment and send it to the California Coastal Commission for review.


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