After cutting out a controversial section of the draft ordinance, the Hood River County Board of Commissioners has continued its hearing on changing Short Term Rental (STR) regulations to May 20.

The commission held a public hearing on the topic during its April 15 regular meeting, where county staff presented a fifth version of the draft ordinance (see sidebar for details). Eric Walker, interim Community Development director, presented the ordinance and three people testified in public hearing: Diane Gifford, Heather Staten and MaryAnn Barillotti.

“This is the most thoroughly vetted piece of legislation I’ve ever seen,” said Staten, executive director of Thrive Hood River, formerly named the Hood River Valley Residents Committee. “It is compromise legislation that is overall a very good balance.” Barillotti, who spoke next, concurred with Staten’s points.

In addition to the proposed regulation changes included in previous versions of the ordinance, the new draft included changes that the commissioners decided on during an April 1 work session: Removal of all proposed changes to the definition of “recreational vehicle,” and removal of the residency exemption for existing STRs on Exclusive Farm Use (EFU) or Forest land.

Gifford, a homeowner who operates an STR on Eastside Road, testified April 15 that the regulation changes would “Make it very difficult for us to continue to operate as an STR” and asked the commissioners to modify the grandfathering regulations so that they could eventually qualify.

Considering the ordinance as a whole, Commissioner Bob Benton said the proposed regulations amount to “limping out of the discussion in order to avoid costs and appeals, rather than trying to create good policy.” He said the proposed regulations “don’t provide a clear-cut definition of resident,” and that “individuals who have applied (as residents) have credibility as well and we owe it to them to try to grandfather those folks in.”

“I don’t disagree with you,” Commissioner Les Perkins replied, “I understand your concern, but we don’t have the staff or financial bandwidth to go down a path that is likely to lead to further appeals. What staff has to say on this has a lot of weight.”

The April 15 hearing was considered the first official reading of the revised ordinance. May 20’s hearing will be the second reading, after which the commission can decide to adopt the ordinance, or send it back to staff for further revision.

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