County might take action on vacation rentals

Gearhart voters upheld vacation rental rules in November.

Clatsop County commissioners have reluctantly agreed to hold a hearing that could determine whether to impose vacation rental regulations.

Commissioners will vote Jan. 24 on an ordinance that would require property owners to apply for five-year, renewable permits based on safety inspections for an unlimited number of short-term rental properties. Discussions on Wednesday night revealed parking limits and the five-year timeline as the two remaining hangups.

The permits would require property owners to comply with quiet hours, provide covered garbage containers, possess at least one fire extinguisher and offer at least one off-street parking spot. Only three people per sleeping area plus two more in the entire dwelling would be allowed to occupy a residence.

The hearing later this month may culminate a roughly 1 1/2 year effort by county staff, who have documented multiple complaints from residents. They estimate the ordinance would impact at least 173 property owners in unincorporated areas who rent out homes for up to 30 days, nearly double the 2010 estimate for vacation rentals.

Commissioners were first handed a draft of an ordinance in June and have held three work sessions on the topic. They opted to indefinitely postpone a final vote at a similar hearing in September.

The delay was due in part to Gearhart regulations that were put to a vote in November, Scott Lee, the board’s chairman, said in September. Voters rejected the ballot measure 77 percent to 23 percent, keeping the regulations in place.

Commissioner Sarah Nebeker, a Gearhart resident and critic of the regulations, called the city’s rules the most extreme in the state. Commissioner Lianne Thompson, in turn, pointed to the vote tally in her rebuttal.

Nebeker and Commissioner Lisa Clement took issue specifically with the parking restrictions in the county’s proposed ordinance.

“I’m just so confused about this,” Nebeker said. “Why is it a safety issue if someone is renting short-term but it’s not a safety issue if you have five cars and you live there full time?”

Clement’s hesitation was more general.

“I’m always just concerned with too much regulation,” Clement said, adding Nebeker’s questions made sense.

Lee, Thompson and Commissioner Kathleen Sullivan were in favor of the parking regulations.

“There’s a public safety issue here, and people’s right to own property doesn’t supersede public safety,” Thompson said.

Despite concerns about county staff time and cost to homeowners, Sullivan has repeatedly called for permit inspections every three to four years rather than the five-year requirement. Thompson also supported that sentiment.

The majority of commissioners support regulations to various degrees. The question later this month appears to be who, if anyone, will budge or compromise on the final details.

“There are some people who come here because they think there are no rules and they can do whatever they want to and they want to behave badly,” Thompson said. “If we have ways to negotiate these things so that we can cooperate flexibly, I’m happy.”


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