Supervisors move to impose peace on Tulloch

Supervisors looked to tame some of Calaveras County’s loudest party spots this week, moving an ordinance aimed at quieting dozens of popular vacation rentals along the shores of Lake Tulloch. They voted 4-0 to introduce the ordinance, which could make it law by early this spring.

The ordinance, first debuted by planners last April, requires rental owners to annually renew a county administrative use permit that caps the number of cars and tenants allowed at Tulloch’s lakeside vacation homes.

That $2,033 permit could be revoked if vacationers run afoul of new parking and occupancy rules – which allow for two renters and one car per bedroom, as well as two additional persons per property – or fail to observe “quiet hours” between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. weekdays and midnight and 7 a.m. on weekends. A typical three-bedroom home could have no more than eight occupants.

If passed on its return to the board next month, an amended version of the ordinance would also ask owners for a 24-hour contact within 60 miles of the lake who could be called to look in on unruly tenants.

All four supervisors on hand Tuesday afternoon moved in favor of the crackdown on Tulloch’s rowdy summer crowd. Chairwoman Merita Callaway was absent due to illness.

Near unanimous board support for the move comes only months after a previous batch of supervisors signed off on the county’s first-ever noise ordinance, one nudged along with loud support from a handful of Tulloch residents.

One of those backers, Lake Tulloch Alliance President Jack Cox, was on hand to reiterate his support for further regulating the lakeside party scene.

Cox, who is in the process of moving to the area from his primary home in Los Angeles, argued Tulloch’s part-time population tended to detract from a year-round sense of community.

“The problem with short-term vacation rentals is they’re simply not compatible with single-family homes in a community,” Cox told board members. “If this (ordinance) doesn’t work then we need to ban these things permanently.”

All but one Tulloch homeowners association has already placed a ban on rentals, which can house as many as 20 occupants, and, by resident Ralph Copeland’s estimate, at least as many boats, cars and RVs.

Copeland made up his mind about Tulloch’s summer vacation crowd “when two porta-potties were delivered to the end of my cul-de-sac.”

“The next day a minibus and a van arrived with a church group, 30 or 40 children, six to eight adult chaperones, and musical equipment they took down to the beach,” Copeland explained.

He said similar arrivals often clog neighborhood streets and make it difficult for emergency crews to access Tulloch homes in the summer.

“For the next three or four days, they stayed at the rental home. If those children are hurt on the water, if they’re hurt in the street, I would think that would open up the county, and the HOA, to liability.”

Lake Tulloch Resort owner Bernadette Cattaneo couldn’t get behind the effort.

She admits the ordinance, which would apply only to vacation rentals on Lake Tulloch, could prove good for business, but she opposed the move on principle.

“I don’t have an ax to grind – I don’t rent things out, so you’re right, it would benefit the resort – but, it’s a property rights issue and it’s an issue that, if you decide to do it, needs to be countywide,” Cattaneo told supervisors Tuesday.

Copper Cove resident Kathy Williams wondered if Tulloch’s short-term renters were simply being scapegoated.

“I’m wondering how everybody is distinguishing the problem with short-term rentals versus owners?” Williams asked. “Basically what I heard from law enforcement in previous meetings is that they couldn’t say the problem was due to short-term renters.”

Neither could Planning Director Rebecca Willis, though she stood behind planners’ decision to design an ordinance “to fit the area where the problem is.”

Board rookies, Supervisors Chris Wright and Debbie Ponte, sided with fellow new Supervisor Cliff Edson’s defense of the move, one Edson framed in terms of personal experience.

“I used to go play out on that lake back in the ’70s and boy, did I make some noise,” the District 1 supervisor explained. “Unfortunately, respecting other people doesn’t always happen. … I’d like to live in a world with no rules, but that doesn’t always work.”

Ponte grounded her case for the new rule more cautiously.

“I think it’s a start,” the District 4 supervisor told her new Lake Tulloch constituents. “It’s not perfect, but hopefully it can bring us some sort of a happy medium.”

Board members will look to hit upon a final amended ordinance when they reconvene for a regularly scheduled meeting set to begin 9 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 12, in the Board of Supervisors chambers located at 891 Mountain Ranch Road in San Andreas.

Contact James DeHaven at james@calaverasenterprise.com.

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