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County moves ahead on repeal of STR rules posted on 07/01/2022

Clackamas County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) edged closer towards repealing county regulations for Short Term Rentals (STRs) in unincorporated Clackamas County at a June 23 public reading, with a four-to-one vote to proceed to a final public hearing of the repeal proposal.

The reading provided a fresh airing of long-simmering public grievances, as Mount Hood residents in attendance detailed the negative impacts of STRs on their communities. 15 community members spoke at the hearing and urged the commissioners to act on the matter while highlighting impacts the rentals have on their neighborhoods.

“The can has got to be stopped being kicked down the road. We need to move forward with this,” Welches resident Rob Bruce stated. “Please understand, we’re not against STRs, but we are for community, and we’re losing community quickly.”

BCC Chair Tootie Smith stated that she and other commissioners are opposed to the proposed $800 registration fee (covering two years) that would be required to fund the program.

“I believe it’s quite onerous,” Smith said.

Residents countered the fee was comparable to other county fees, such as the cost of a mailbox repair, and necessary to implement regulations for issues including occupancy, building safety and parking that business entities such as hotels and inns are held accountable for under business zoning code.

Community members testified STRs are largely operated in residential neighborhoods, often by out-of-town owners and increasingly corporate and business entities. They detailed STRs impact on issues such as road easements and access for emergency vehicles.

With no established method for funding and enforcing the program county counsel urged that the code regarding the registration program and regulations be removed from the county code.

The commissioners had a scattershot response to the procedural meeting and were united primarily by opposition to implementing a registration fee. Commissioner Paul Savas suggested substituting last minute revisions to the regulations into the repeal process to maintain momentum on the issue. County Counsel urged that any revisions or amendments be addressed on a separate track while continuing to recommend that the current code be repealed due to lack of funding.

“It’s cleaner to repeal the ordinance. This ordinance goes into effect in seven days and staff will not implement it because we have no funding,” County Administrator Gary Schmidt stated.

Commissioner Mark Shull called for a rewrite of the regulations to include maximum occupancy limits and address if the property owner must reside on site, but both issues are addressed in the current iteration of the regulations. Commissioners Martha Schrader and Smith voiced opposition to the fee but expressed the need to create a modified regulatory framework for the STRs. Commissioner Sonya Fischer stated a need to change the funding source for the code enforcement but was the lone vote in opposition to repealing the existing county code governing STRs.

“This commission listened to communities across Clackamas County and threaded the needle on these regulations,” Fischer said. “These regulations are good. This (current) board as a whole has not even been briefed on all the work the previous commission did on the issue.”

The second and final public reading is scheduled for the Sept. 8 BCC meeting. The commissioners determined to hold policy sessions in the interim and attempt to draft an alternate registration and regulation program for STRs by that date in hopes of presenting an alternative to the existing code with a different means of funding at the time of repeal.

STRs will continue to be allowed in unincorporated Clackamas County as stated in the Zoning and Development Ordinance but with no regulatory framework to address community impact.

“I’ve been following the process for three years. It’s amazing to me that given the length of the process we’ve come back to being nowhere,” said Barbara Smith, full time Rhododendron resident.

More information about the program is available online at https://www.clackamas.us/planning/str.

By Ben Simpson/MT

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