County holds STR, marijuana hearings in August

LOVABLE HOOD RIVER representatives Elizabeth Whelan, Lesley Lamb, and Libby Taylor speak at Hood River County Planning Commission’s hearing on short term rentals last Wednesday evening.

Photo by Patrick Mulvihill
LOVABLE HOOD RIVER representatives Elizabeth Whelan, Lesley Lamb, and Libby Taylor speak at Hood River County Planning Commission’s hearing on short term rentals last Wednesday evening.

Hood River County will tackle two divisive issues in tandem.

Rules for short term rentals and marijuana businesses have come before Hood River County Planning Commission, and now the appointed panel’s recommendations will shift up to the elected Board of Commissioners for a pair of hearings in August to decide their legislative fate.

Short term rental (STR) rules will be the topic Monday, Aug. 22, and marijuana regulations will follow on Monday, Aug. 29. Both meetings will be held at 6 p.m. at County Business Administration Building, 601 State St.

The planning panel sealed off on its STR and marijuana recommendations at a meeting last Wednesday.

Rental rules

Planning Commission held a single, moderately attended hearing concerning short term rental regulations last Wednesday evening.

The hearing mirrored the City of Hood River’s public process, albeit with a smaller turnout. About seven people signed up to speak, mostly in favor of STRs and against restricting their growth too tightly.

After several failed motions, the panel voted to ban STRs on high value farm, forest and industrial zones, and allow the rentals on other zones — including residential, rural and commercial zones — and to establish a maximum cap of 60 within those areas.

The rentals, which the county doesn’t currently permit, would become allowed through an over the counter, 4-year permit.

The rules define an STR as a dwelling unit listed by an agent for use, rent or occupancy for 30 days or less. The category doesn’t include guest quarters, bed and breakfasts, or hotels.

A study last year by ECONorthwest identified about 73 STRs in the unincorporated county. About 26 of those were located on EFU land. STRs and second homes made up 2-4 percent of housing outside the city of Hood River — relatively sparse compared to 10-12 percent within the city.

The Board of Commissioners decided last October to “fine tune” the STR process, which spurred planning staff to research and bring forward proposed rules.

At Wednesday’s meeting, planning commissioners mulled over the impact of STRs and the viability of an overall cap.

Commissioner Jennifer Euwer highlighted concerns with housing shortages in the county, and argued the city’s struggle regulating short term rentals could spread to the county in the near future.

“I think it would be a disservice to sit idly and watch what happened in Hood River happen to Parkdale and Odell,” Euwer said.

Commissioner Erick von Lubken argued STRs should be allowed through a permitting process on certain resource zones. He felt there wasn’t an overbearing demand for new STR rentals in the county.

“I don’t see a huge rush of people wanting to do this,” von Lubken said.

The panel ultimately voted to recommend a cap of 60 rentals on permitted zones, less than the estimated 73 currently existing in the county.

Hood River County Planning Director John Roberts said commissioners took a more restrictive direction than the one staff had proposed.

“The planning commission took a much more restrictive stance than was recommended. Our first recommendation was we didn’t need a cap, but if they were to explore one, 100 or 125 would be more appropriate,” Roberts said.

The smaller cap would likely maintain the existing STR inventory, he said, because the roughly 25 rentals on EFU zones would be prohibited in the new ruleset.

Roberts said in bringing the matter to the Board of Commissioners, he’ll suggest an optional cap in terms of a percentage of total housing stock.

Marijuana rules

While retail sales (and taxes) are dominating the City of Hood River’s discourse on marijuana, the growing and production side of the cannabis business has proved prominent at the county level.

Last week, the county planning commission upheld staff’s draft time, place and manner ordinance, which divvies up allowed uses for each stage of the marijuana business. The ruleset allows growing operations in farm and forest zones, processing in exclusive farm use (EFU) and industrial zones, and retail outlets (dispensaries) in commercial zones.

Planning commissioners recommended banning all marijuana businesses on rural residential properties.

The county’s proposed rules will concern new Oregon Liquor Control Commission-licensed cannabis businesses in the unincorporated county located outside the National Scenic Area.

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