Leavenworth mayor criticizes county over vacation-rental restart

Leavenworth Mayor Carl Florea

LEAVENWORTH — The reopening of vacation rentals in Chelan County during the COVID-19 emergency has angered Leavenworth’s mayor.

In a letter to county commissioners Tuesday, Mayor Carl Florea says it’s a mistake not to extend the moratorium on short-term rentals the county imposed in early April. Commissioners allowed that ban to expire Tuesday in unincorporated areas of the county.

Leavenworth has its own restrictions on vacation rentals in the city, and it has operated under a mayoral stay-at-home order since March 24. But Florea says any return of weekend rental visitors puts Leavenworth at risk of further virus spread, even while most of its tourist-friendly businesses are closed to the public.

“It is getting harder and harder to hold back the floodgates of people interested in traveling to Leavenworth,” his letter says. “I daily watch the numbers of vehicle traffic increase on Highway 2. I toured our downtown over this past weekend, and saw many people walking through our downtown without masks, without social distancing. This, despite our downtown still being essentially closed.”

Both Chelan and Douglas counties passed resolutions in early April after seeing an influx of short-term renters in Chelan and elsewhere, despite statewide restrictions on travel. Those rental bans had sunset clauses that allowed them to expire after May 4.

In a press statement, the Chelan County commissioners asked short-term rental owners to keep COVID-19 safety in mind while operating their businesses. The county hopes to formalize permanent rules on the practice this summer.