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Scottsdale City Council to evaluate STR nuisance regulations next month amid consistent police activity

Photo of City Hall where Scottsdale City Council meets
An artistic view of Scottsdale City Hall. (Photo: Arianna Grainey/DigitalFreePress)
Scottsdale City Council receives word on Maricopa County STR study to commence
By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press

It is no secret Scottsdale City Council continues to struggle with local control around bad actors who are part of the short-term rental marketplace and now it appears the Maricopa Board of Supervisors may wade into those legal waters, maybe.

It all comes down to Senate Bill 1350, which years ago was put into place by the Arizona Legislature and provides the legal framework of the current short-term rental marketplace enjoyed statewide.

Scottsdale and Town of Paradise Valley officials tell the Arizona Digital Free Press a trio of proposals are now part of the League of Arizona Cities and Towns legislative agenda as the 2024 session looms later this year.

“County staff recently briefed the Board of Supervisors on state statute allowances for the regulation of short-term rentals (STRs) and the relation of this statute to existing County regulations affecting STRs,” said Maricopa County Manager Jennifer Pokorski in a Sept. 5 letter to Brent Stockwell, who serves as assistant city manager at City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater.

“This briefing included a survey of municipalities throughout the state with STR ordinances and the extent of their enforcement activity. Thank you for your time and the information related to Scottsdale’s history with STRs, including the process the city followed leading to your current ordinance and enforcement practices.”

Ms. Pokorski provided to Scottsdale leaders Maricopa County is moving forward with an internal study to ascertain if proposals for STR rules are necessary beyond what is provided by state law at the Maricopa County Bounty of Supervisors.

“As a result of this discussion with the board, the county will be conducting a formal study to evaluate existing regulations and identify if there is a proliferation of STR issues in unincorporated Maricopa County that may require further regulations as allowed within state statute. In the coming weeks, we will begin the process of selecting a third-party vendor to identify the number and location of STRs within our jurisdiction.”

But Ms. Pokorski explains the discovery process may take up to a year.

“Data will be gathered and analyzed over the course of a year to evaluate the need for a STR ordinance for unincorporated County with recommendations made to the Board of Supervisors. County staff are also actively following the progress of Phoenix’s STR Ordinance update, as well.”

Scottsdale Councilman Barry Graham. (Photo: Arianna Grainey/DigitalFreePress)
Scottsdale City Council: A proliferation of STR issues continue

In Mr. Stockwell’s regular report to Scottsdale City Council, he provides the number of new licenses issued, code enforcement actions taken and the overall state of the STR market from the lens of municipal management.

“Through Aug. 31, there have been 3,971 short-term rental applications submitted, and 3,516 licenses approved,” he said in his Sept. 5 report to City Council. “The remainder are pending, incomplete, withdrawn or cancelled. In August, there were 66 applications received and 93 new licenses issued. Rentalscape currently estimates that there were 3,973 active short-term rentals (sixth straight month of declining estimates since the high in February), which means that 99% have applied, and 89% have received their licenses.”

Scottsdale Councilman Barry Graham believes despite recent headlines the governments of Scottsdale and Maricopa County work well together.

“It’s promising to see the city continue getting a handle on how many and which homes are operated as short-term rentals (STRs). Scottsdale police have also begun tracking STR service calls—helping them monitor and respond to STR bad-actors,” he said. “While I’m sure there are many STR bad-actors operating in unincorporated areas, it’s difficult to measure the extent because they aren’t registered like they are in Scottsdale, and those residents don’t report problems to the city of Scottsdale.”

During the month of August 2023, the Scottsdale Police Department received 104 nuisance party calls for service — a total of 57 of these calls or 55% were related to short-term rentals, numbers show. The total number of calls was similar to July (93), but up 23 calls from August 2022 (81).

In his report, Mr. Stockwell provided to City Council the following August data points regarding police citations: the police department issued four citations for nuisance party violations, four cases were referred to the prosecutor for review for charging and 52 warnings were issued.

Taken directly from the report to City Council, here is an illustration of party enforcement in Scottsdale and Town of Paradise Valley over this past Labor Day holiday:

REPORT: On Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023, Scottsdale police became aware of an out-of-state fraud ring that had rented a short-term rental in Scottsdale near 109th and Laurel Lane this weekend. The property manager was contacted by the short-term rental sergeant, who immediately agreed to begin eviction notifications. Coincidentally, this owner had fallen victim to this same group last year. The property owner also provided the police with the renter’s information. Police detectives discovered that the name provided was fake and the phone number returned to an unrelated Pinetop [address.] Officers made contact around 10 p.m. and were advised that the renters were alerted to police involvement and left the residence at 6 p.m. The owner changed the access codes and trespassed all the occupants of the house. One of the occupants provided some names and contact information for the possible fraudulent renters and the sergeant will be following up for possible charging. Officers patrolled the area the remainder of the night in case any of them attempted to return to party in the large backyard, which happened last October.

REPORT: On Monday, Sept. 4, 2023, Scottsdale police became aware of a planned large Labor Day mansion party. The exact location was not known but it was believed to be either in [the Town of] Paradise Valley or Scottsdale. Police detectives learned the meet up location for this party was at the Wal-Mart parking lot located at Raintree and the Loop 101. Officers responded to this location and watched as three security guards frisked party goers before letting them on the bus hired to transport partygoers to the secret location. These security guards were all wearing ballistic vests and carrying AR-15 type rifles. The detectives also noted there was a very large crowd forming at the Wal-Mart waiting for the buses. Scottsdale Police saw the shuttle drop people off at the location near 104th and Larkspur and saw three additional security guards. When Scottsdale police took action there were about 50 people present, but the party would have easily been more than 200 if allowed to continue. Contact was made with the renter who proclaims to be the king of mansion parties and was arrested for an outstanding warrant. The homeowner’s representative responded and trespassed everyone else from the short-term rental. The renter faces additional charges.

Scottsdale City Council is expected to discuss existing and new proposals to enhance the vacation rental and nuisance parties ordinance within municipal bounds Tuesday, Oct. 24.

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