CANNON BEACH — Placing limits on vacation rentals, making inspections more frequent and spreading out permit renewals were potential changes discussed by the Cannon Beach City Council Tuesday night.
The city’s strategic goal of making short-term rental regulations “clear and understandable” is moving forward, but will not be complete by December, as originally planned.
A cap on short-term rentals could be considered within the next months.
“If our concern is not totally losing the character of this town and becoming strictly a destination resort, we should be seriously considering caps,” Councilor Mike Benefield said.
Transient “grandfathered” rentals and five-year transient rentals, two types of short-term rentals, are capped at 92 permits altogether.
However, the vacation home rental program — the city’s third kind of permit — has no cap and grows by about six permits per year. There are about 120 vacation rental permits, which have a 14-day tenancy limit.
Neighboring cities have limits on short-term rental permits. Manzanita caps permits at 17.5 percent of the city’s dwelling units. Seaside caps short-term rentals within certain residential zones. If more than 20 percent of units within 100 feet of the property are vacation rentals, a Planning Commission public hearing and review is required.
“The goal in Seaside was to keep predominately residential neighborhoods from becoming totally dominated with short-term rentals,” City Planner Mark Barnes said. “Most people pull back in their plans when they find that there will be a hearing.”
Cannon Beach’s short-term rentals make up about 10 percent of its 1,812 housing units, according to a staff report.
Barnes said there was no evidence the city could solve its affordable housing problems through changing its short-term rental program. The current short-term rentals would not necessarily be made available by owners for long-term rentals, he added.
However, the vacation rental program is “growing faster than our housing stock,” Barnes said.
Benefield said there is evidence that short-term rentals and long-term housing are connected, pointing to an Icelandic city, where a major increase in Airbnb rentals has led to increased house prices and scarce long-term rentals. Property owners can afford to pay more if they plan to rent their homes short-term to help pay for mortgages, he said.
The city inspects homes on a five-year cycle.
“The problem for most of our enforcement efforts is we don’t find out about these violations until we do an audit, and then we find out about a big batch,” Barnes said. “Some individual permits came with more than a dozen violations.”
Councilors agreed that a building official is needed, but the city has not yet filed that position.
While Councilor George Vetter said annual inspections are too frequent, City Manager Brant Kucera said yearly inspections are a public health and welfare issue.
“You are essentially running a business out of your home,” he said. “It is a benefit for the city from a liability point of view and people staying there that we have regular inspections.”
All potential code amendments will likely go to a Planning Commission public hearing in December.