John Ross Ferrara / Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021 @ 10:55 a.m. / Business, Community, Local Government, Oregon

Curry County Commissioners Discuss the Possibility of Regulating Vacation Rentals

The Curry County Board of Commissioners held an open community workshop yesterday to discuss the feasibility of regulating the estimated 400 vacation rentals currently operating within the unincorporated areas of the county.

County Planning Director Becky Crockett took questions from commissioners, property owners and other concerned community members at the meeting in an effort to resolve the long-standing issues tied to these properties. These issues include noise, trash, parking and behavioral complaints and reductions in available long-term housing.

“We’re essentially at a crossroads on the issue of vacation rentals,” Crockett said at yesterday’s meeting. “They’re a positive influence in promoting tourism, and for bringing dollars to the community for the people who own vacation rentals and the businesses that serve the vacationers. However, some have become conduits for nuisance violations and neighborhood complaints.”

Currently, the vacation rental industry in unincorporated parts of Curry County is mostly unregulated. Vacation rental owners are required to have county business licenses and pay a 7 percent transient lodging tax (implemented in 2019). However, the county has found it difficult to bring illegally operating properties into compliance in the absence of a more rigid system.

Of these 400 vacation properties, about 100 have current business licenses and 300 pay transient lodging taxes during the summer months.

While Curry County hopes to limit future vacation rentals form popping up, county employees also expressed an interest in protecting its upstanding vacation rental businesses through the proposed regulations. Yesterday’s meeting was largely influenced by last month’s voter turnout in Lincoln County. After years of faulty restrictions imposed by the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners, frustrated residents voted to completely phase out all short-term rentals within the coastal county’s unincorporated areas.

“A large reason for the success of that ballot measure was the fact that the citizens repeatedly asked the county commissioners to do a better job enforcing vacation rentals because of the nuisance problems that existed,” Crockett said.

While Lincoln County attempted to regulate its vacation rental industry solely through a licensing program, Curry County will look to impose restrictions though conditional land use permits — a strategy that the county believes will protect current rental properties from being shut down by voter referendum.

“What we are proposing is that we regulate short-term rentals through the land-use process,” Crockett said. “Essentially requiring administrative conditional use for those to continue in operation.”

Crockett said this strategy will also provide minimal safety inspections to ensure the properties are up to code, and allow for enforceable fines and possibly a three-strikes rule, where non-compliant property owners could lose their right to operate.

“The beauty, from the county’s perspective, [in using land-use permits] is you do have an edge for enforcement," she said. "You know who the owner is, you have phone numbers, you know if they’re legal, you know if they're outside their permit allowance, and you can also include in an administrative conditional use process a provision for violations.”

Becuase the county also aims to prevent peer-to-peer vacation rentals from swallowing up additional homes and long-term rentals, residents like Holly Hatch — who manages roughly 20 vacation rental properties around the county — are concerned that these regulations could be unfair to landlords — especially in the midst of a statewide eviction moratorium.

“The reality that I have seen, is that the majority, by far, of my vacation rental owners are in the vacation owner rental market because they either use the rental themselves, or they do not want to be long term landlords because of the recent regulations that have been put in place by the state,” Hatch told the Board of Commissioners at yesterday’s workshop.

Commissioner Chris Paasch assured community members at the meeting that the County does not want to eliminate its current upstanding short-term rental properties. However, limits could be imposed on new short-term rentals.

“There could be a phase of shutting it down in that we look at a moratorium at least for three, four or five years,” Paasch said. “We may look at a moratorium on new [vacation rentals].”

So far, Planning Director Becky Crockett said that nothing has been put in writing, and that the county is still interested in receiving feedback from community members.

“Nothing is written yet, and that’s part of why we’re having this workshop: to figure out what should be written in order to achieve the objectives that I’ve heard today,” Crockett said. “If we don’t do something, we may come to the same nexus that Lincoln County did, where the commissioners didn't do anything and the people were frustrated. We don't want that to happen.”


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