County commissioners vote to recognize vacation rentals in more locations

June 23—The Clatsop County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday approved an ordinance recognizing vacation rentals as permitted use in 16 areas in unincorporated areas.

The ruling adds vacation rentals to the county’s development code, formally accepting a longtime business.

The council voted unanimously to hold the second reading of the ordinance, although Commissioner Pamela Wev previously voted against holding the first reading.

Recently, Wev had been pushing for a tailored approach. His view is in line with a Planning Commission recommendation to ban vacation rentals in residential areas and allow them in commercial and multi-family residential areas – a decision which the Department of Assessment and County taxation, would wipe out half a million dollars in lodging taxes.

We changed our minds due to an amendment to the ordinance: commissioners asked county staff to devise a plan to explore capping the number of short-term rentals in certain areas. This plan should be presented to the commissioners in about five weeks.

“I think we owe all the people who have spent so many hours on this issue — I think we owe them a strong commitment to hitting that ceiling,” she said.

Opponents of the ordinance fear rentals of 30 days or less will continue to proliferate, displacing long-term residents and eroding neighborhood livability. Limiting the number of vacation rentals in an area could help preserve the residential character. In Cove Beach, the community that started the vacation rental conversation in 2019, rentals make up about a third of homes.

More than 170 vacation rentals operate in unincorporated areas of the county. Until Wednesday’s vote, their use was not mentioned in development code except in Arch Cape, where vacation rentals have been permitted since the early 2000s.

“What we’re doing is settling in law what was a question of fact long before any of us were here,” Commissioner Lianne Thompson, who lives in Cove Beach, said Wednesday.

The vote makes vacation rentals use outright — no public hearing or public notice required before the county issues a permit.

The ordinance also applies to Gearhart’s unincorporated urban growth boundary, an area not covered by that city’s vacation rental rules.

The vote to make vacation rentals an explicit use is the latest in a recent string of business-related commission decisions that have become a sore point in many coastal Oregon communities. Advertised on online platforms, the rentals offer scenic getaways and bring money back to homeowners and local economies. But neighborhoods experience them differently depending on density, ability to enforce rules and other factors.

Since last summer, as county staff and commissioners worked to resolve the issue, the county has been placed under a twice extended moratorium on vacation rental licenses. The freeze is due to expire at the end of August.

Clatsop County considers vacation rentals to be commercial activities alongside others — such as bed and breakfasts, RV parks, primitive campgrounds, kennels, and golf courses — permitted in residential areas.

The most vocal opponents live in the Cove Beach neighborhood, where several residents hoped the county would ban vacation rentals in residential areas and phase out existing ones when permits expire.

Some commissioners have warned that lawsuits could be filed against the county if the council votes to eliminate existing vacation rentals.

The idea of ​​limiting businesses came up repeatedly on Wednesday, as opponents of the order sought a compromise with a council whose majority had already decided to vote “yes”.

Thompson said she sees the wisdom in placing a cap on the number allowed in certain areas. This would require changing the operating standards for vacation rentals.

In April, commissioners updated operating standards for areas outside Arch Cape to take into account tenant behavior and other pressure points. Landlords must post a Good Neighbor flyer listing rules regarding things like quiet hours, littering, pets, fires, fireworks, parking, speed limits, and trespassing.

Commissioner John Toyooka said enforcement of these rules is the top concern that comes up in his dealings with residents.

Other more existential concerns were expressed during twenty public meetings. Karynn Fish, of Cove Beach, said on Wednesday she feared her family might one day be evicted so the property could be converted into a vacation rental.

“Your actions today will likely determine whether my family or any other family in the future will be able to rent our home for years to come,” Fish told the commissioners.

Commissioner Courtney Bangs, who represents the eastern part of the county, said she was not a fan of the negative impacts of tourism. It considers the question through the prism of property rights.

“Property rights mean a lot to me and to my constituents,” she said. “I can’t choose when property rights matter and when they don’t.”

Comments are closed.