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Hood River City Council asks for temporary freeze on new short term rentals

The short term rental question may be put on pause.

Hood River City Council on Monday asked staff to write up an ordinance that would block any new STRs (identified by transient room tax returns) for six months until councilors can reach an agreement on what rules they want to adopt.

The moratorium, not yet official, comes back to council for adoption or rejection in two weeks. If council approves that legislation, it would be effective until November.

On Monday, councilors couldn’t reach a majority vote answering the larger STR question: whether the city should implement Planning Commission’s proposed STR regulations, which bounced up from the appointed commission to the elected city council last month.

Moratorium proposed City Council is considering an ordinance that would restrict planning staff from accepting any new short term rentals (STR) in residential zones for the next six months, until the city works out regulations on STRs. Council will decide whether to adopt the STR “freeze” at their May 23 meeting at City Hall.

Those rules — unofficially dubbed the “Portland Plan” due to their similarity to that city’s legislation — require STRs to be in an owner’s primary residence only (hosted home shares), prohibit STRs in accessory dwelling units, and phase out non-compliant STRs over a five-year “grandfathering” period.

The rentals have drawn an extended debate, with council wedged between sides either opposed to planners’ suggested regulations or in favor.

Councilors heard almost five hours of testimony at a pair of April hearings. Pro-regulation speakers argued the rules were a tool to address overall housing availability and preserve neighborhood character. Those opposed asserted the rules would have negative economic impacts and harm private property rights.

Monday’s meeting was the first chance since “absorb(ing)” public input to deliberate on the rule changes at a council level, Councilor Kate McBride said.

Two council members recused themselves from the topic on April 11 — Laurent Picard and Becky Brun — due to a conflict of interest because both are STR providers.

That left a board of five, with four affirmative votes needed to pass any legislation. Mayor Paul Blackburn explained the vote would not be for “the quorum;” it would have to represent the entire council “body.”

Councilors were divided on the Planning Commission’s proposal, which would amend Title 17 (zoning) of the Hood River Municipal Code to address STRs.

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Kate McBride

McBride advocated for extending the grandfathering phase-out period on STRs from five years to 10, but backed the Planning Commission’s decision to include the rentals as a commercial use.

“It’s our job to take care of the people who live here full-time first, so that’s what this is about,” McBride said. “I do think that STRs are a commercial use … and what the Planning Commission came up with is to allow residential uses in residential zones.”

Councilor Mark Zanmiller disagreed with the Planning Commission plan, as well as the concept that renting a home as an STR is inherently a commercial use. He argued STRs bring the benefit of new visitors to Hood River.

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Mark Zanmiller

“I do not think we’re in a crisis (regarding) STRs,” Zanmiller said. He argued the plan divides communities into “good guys and bad guys” via regulations and the council needs to “find another way.”

Councilors were unable to decide on several crucial issues, such as whether to create a cap on total STRs, and how long to stretch the phase-out period.

After deliberation, they reached an agreement to introduce an ordinance that would allow council to block any new STRs until the city worked out Title 17 land use regulations. City staff advocated for no more than six months out of concern that the ordinance would seem “permanent.”

“(The ordinance) doesn’t give you a six-month vacation, it gives you six months to get it done,” City Attorney Dan Kearns said.

Councilors gave consensus for staff to “bring back the freeze.”

City Council expects to pick up the question of the STR moratorium and wider discussion over rental regulations on Monday, May 23.



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LocalObserver 1 year, 6 months ago

While Councilor Zanmiller may not feel that STRs are a business, the State of Oregon and the Hood River County Tax Assessor feel differently. Just ask any STR owner about the requirement to file and pay property tax on the contents of the STR (e.g. furniture, linens, art, throw rugs, pots, pans, electronics and the like), as these items are used to be "used in a business". More at: https://www.oregon.gov/DOR/programs/property/Pages/personal-property.aspx

The bottom line is that an STR is a business. I would argue that businesses should only operate in appropriately zoned areas. Sure, exceptions are made for people who are telecommuting from their homes or doing other business activities that do not generate any traffic, noise, parking, or other impacts on the adjacent property owners. However, STRs don't fall into this category. STRs sited in residential zones present many burdens on adjacent property owners. I don't want an STR in a residential zone any more than I want my next door neighbor to turn his garage into a welding shop or his driveway into a commercial car repair service.

Council needs to focus less on the affordable housing argument when looking at STRs and look more at the cost & burden of allowing for profit commercial businesses to be sited in residential zones.

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hoodriverluvr 1 year, 6 months ago

LocalObserver and McBride are stating the opposite of the law of the state of Oregon as defined by the Oregon Supreme Court. A decision by the Oregon Supreme Court clearly states that renting a home on a short term basis is an allowed residential use and not a commercial use.

https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=12141304835028905470&hl=en&as_sdt=2&as_vis=1&oi=scholarr

More specifically: Plaintiffs asserted that "the acceptance of a fee in exchange for daily or weekly stays at [the home] is not a residential purpose" ... We disagree. Whether or not defendants receive a rental fee is not the determinative factor, because the "residential purpose" clause of the restrictive covenant controls the manner in which the property is used. Although the renters pay to occupy defendants' home, they are using the home for residential purposes. Plaintiffs do not assert, nor does the evidence indicate, that defendants' home, when rented, is used for any nonresidential purposes.

...defendants' practice of renting their vacation home on a short-term basis [even] through a third party is not a commercial enterprise. Defendants' home is not open to the public for on-site rental, such as a motel, nor is it advertised as a rental by signs on the property. The maximum number of renters and vehicles allowed at any one time appears to be reasonable given the size of the home. What occurs on defendants' property is not any greater infringement on the residential character of the subdivision than would occur with a large family that regularly visited its own vacation home. The only distinction is that defendants receive a fee for the use of their home. Under the covenants involved in this case, that alone is not enough to constitute a commercial enterprise.

If a "commercial enterprise" is any undertaking or systematic purposeful activity involving business dealings of any kind, then the covenant covers defendants' use of the property, because the short-term vacation rentals systematically and purposefully generate revenue from arm's-length transactions. On the other hand, if a "commercial enterprise" requires a business organization that has profit as its primary aim, then the covenant does not cover defendants' use, because the facts shown do not demonstrate that defendants are a business organization or that they have profit as their primary aim (as would be true, for example, of a bed-and-breakfast business).

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gorgeres12 1 year, 6 months ago

LocalObserver's attempt to draw an analogy between vacation rentals and a "welding shop" or "commercial car repair service" is equal measures hyperbole and transparent rhetoric. The use is the same whether a property is used as a short term rental, long term rental or owner occupied. In all three instances people are eating, sleeping, and living in the residence. The fact there is money exchanged does not change the character of the use.

If a short term rentals are banned "business" in residential zones, then long term rentals should also be banned in residential zones. Before the long term rental near me burned (in a fire caused by the tenants), known meth addicts lived there for 2 years and routinely stayed up all night playing loud music. When the house was a long term rental it was a run down dirty mess. Now, the same house now does short term rentals, looks amazing, and I have great neighbors.

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LocalObserver 1 year, 5 months ago

@gorgeres: Take a look at Merrium-Webster's simple definition of "resident": living in a particular place usually for a long period of time

In code, stays of less than 30 days are considered "short term" (aka "transient") and are therefore not residential in nature.

Sounds like your neighboring LTR was a problem property or at least had a problem tenant. That sucks and I feel for you. However, with a LTR, you have the option of complaining to the occupants (and landlord, code enforcement, and possibly LEO) about the same folks. With LTRs being in such short supply in the community, anyone desiring a LTR is not going to routinely cause trouble that gets to their landlord. Transient folks in STRs do not have as much pressure on them to be good actors, as they often are long gone before the complaints work their way back --- and losing the ability to rent from a given STR landlord in future has no impact on their regular long-term housing.

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LocalObserver 1 year, 5 months ago

@hoodriverluvr2 So you're a lawyer, eh? Or at least you play one on TV? OK, so in my best Perry Mason voice, The facts involved in Yogman v. Parrott are not germane to the issues herein, except for the aspects related to the owner of a vacation home renting out their vacation property when they are not directly occupying it themselves. You somehow believe that this narrow exception is extensible to all homes made available for rent, even in cases where the individual owns the [vacation] home for the purpose of being an investment.

The proposed STR regs carve out a nice exception to any primary homeowner who wants to rent their primary residence as a STR for up to 60 days/year. Further, nothing in the proposed regs would prevent the homeowner from also renting out their primary residence for periods of time exceeding 30 days.

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