County Commission deliberates short term rental rules Monday

After some delay, Hood River County Board of Commissioners is meeting again to deliberate what to do about short term rental (STR) regulations.

The board is considering five options:

  1. Wait until the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) administers a decision on the county’s current STR regulations on appeal before making any changes.
  2. Accept the planning commission’s recommended definition of residency, which is more robust than the current regulation. This new definition would require applicants to prove that a dwelling is their primary residence with an Oregon driver’s license or ID card with their address on it, and either a copy of current Hood River County voter registration or the most current copy of tax form OR-40.
  3. Prohibit STRs in certain zone districts, such as forest land and EFU, and continue to allow them under current regulations in others.
  4. Initiate a repeal of all current STR regulations and either form new regulations with legislative guidance, explore other alternatives such as developing a business license for STRs, or completely stop regulating STRs for the foreseeable future.
  5. Grandfather existing STRs into a new regulation system and require new applicants to follow new application requirements and regulations.

The board will also explore hybrids of multiple options, said County Community Development Director John Roberts.

Since January 2016, Hood River County has held 12 public meetings on STRs, including the upcoming Aug. 20 meeting.

The issue was last discussed at a June 18 hearing, and deliberation had to be postponed to the upcoming Aug. 20 meeting due to a series of public comments submitted the day prior including serious legal claims that the county needed to discuss.

The county first adopted STR regulations in December 2016, in response to the growing use of STRs in the community, though Roberts said discussion of the issue preceded his arrival in 2014.

At the time of adoption, the county stated that they would commit to revisiting STR regulations in two years (December 2018) to gauge their effectiveness.

“Out of the gate, appeals came,” Roberts said.

While the county — including both the planning commission and the board of commissioners — has typically averaged four to eight appeals per year since 2008, it has received 32 appeals since STR regulations went into effect January 2016: An average of 16 per year. Of these appeals, 26 were issued by or through the Hood River Valley Residents Committee (HRVRC) and 18 involve STRs, the county reported.

The primary issue cited in these appeals is the residency requirement, which only requires owners to be in a dwelling for 30-days out of the year to be considered a resident.

HRVRC openly disagrees with the county’s STR policies for reasons detailed on its website, including claims that those polices are too loose and encourage out-of-town investors to buy Hood River homes; and that STRS in general hurt housing for local residents, businesses and agriculture by raising the cost of housing, serve as tax loopholes for real estate investors, and destroy the neighborly feel of local communities. Committee members also claim that many policies, like the cap, are widely unenforced.

The county began pursuing amendments to current STR regulations as part of the Hood River County Zoning Ordinance earlier this year because they were already working on amendments to other parts of the ordinance, including legally required updates to text on the National Scenic Area and technical changes to clarify and improve the application and administration of some land use provisions.

Proposed technical changes to STR regulations were separated from the batch at a March 19 hearing due to the complexity of the issue.

Following Monday’s public hearing, the board of commissioners will either recommend a course of action to county staff or extend deliberation on the issue to a future meeting.

The meeting is open to the public and will take place Monday, Aug. 20 at 6 p.m. in the county business administration building, 601 State Street, Hood River.

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