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County considers regulating short-term rentals posted on 06/01/2019

More than one hundred local residents attended a May 18 Clackamas County Planning Division public meeting and voiced, at times, sharply divided opinions on allowing and regulating short-term rental property (STR) in unincorporated Clackamas County. The meeting was hosted by the Rhododendron Community Planning Organization at the Mt. Hood Oregon Resort in Welches.

In addition to potentially regulating properties used as STRs, the county planning commission is considering whether to allow them throughout unincorporated Clackamas County or limit the usage to the Mount Hood resort areas.

“It’s a problem going on in our community. We’re here to listen,” said Clackamas County Commissioner Paul Savas.

At the meeting Clackamas County Planning Manager Jennifer Hughes stated that current county zoning code does not allow or disallow STRs. She added that the county was considering implementing regulations of STRs because of an increase in properties being used in this manner, fueled by the growth of internet-based rental platforms. Hughes said that while the STRs provide additional income to property owners and bolster tourism in the region, there are concerns about their impacts on neighbors.

Some of the impacts on surrounding neighbors cited by both the county and community members in attendance included noise, litter, adherence to garbage pick-up schedules with bins, on-street parking and rental occupants disregarding posted speed limits in communities.

Community members also listed examples of serious safety and environmental concerns, such as lack of access for emergency vehicles due to clogged on-street parking and occupants disregarding burn bans and other fire code issues.

Opinions expressed by local citizens in attendance impacted negatively by STRs varied from calling for a complete ban of these rentals, to implementing regulations with violations punished by a series of fines. Concerned STR owners called for restraint from the county and urged that regulation not punish responsible rental operators.

Many STR owners stated that their properties were only affordable due to the rental income.

“The money that I make is what allows me to live here, to pay my property taxes. Without the supplemental income I’d be on the rolls of the homeless up here,” said Dale Peters, a retired Welches resident who has lived in the community for twenty years.

Others in attendance pointed to the positive impact STRs have on the community by fostering tourism and promoting local business.

“By shutting us down the community will be impacted,” said Alicia Fiorito, operator of two vacation cabins in Rhododendron. She stated she constantly promotes local restaurants and businesses through her rentals and only utilizes local businesses for the maintenance and repair of her properties.

Hughes stated the county realizes that rental use has been around in the region for decades and that there are neighborhoods and condominiums specifically developed as resort/vacation rental properties. She noted there would be no new tax from the initiative and instead suggested a fee paid by STR operators to cover the cost of administering and sustaining the new program.

Many in attendance called for the county to simply improve the enforcement of existing ordinance regarding noise, fire code violations and illegal parking instead of creating a broader regulatory framework.

“I don’t see these as specific issues (to STRs),” Welches resident Hilari Kolstad said. She cited the counties lack of enforcement of similar noise and fire code violations on her neighboring non-rental properties as being a problem she is struggling to address. “Maybe it’s easier to have the short-term people gone then deal with the long-term nuisance.”

The meeting was the second in a series of seven public meetings being held across the county in May and June to present information about the issue and seek public input.

More information regarding the proposed ban and/or regulation of STRs is available online at www.clackamas.us/planning/str. Clackamas County encourages public participation in an online survey available on the site. For more information or to comment contact Senior County Planner Martha Fritzie at 503-742-4529 or at mfritzie@clackamas.us.

County representatives will also discuss STRs at the Mt. Hood Area Chamber of Commerce meeting at 8 a.m. Tuesday, June 4, at the Mt. Hood Village RV Resort, 65000 Hwy. 26 in Welches.

By Benjamin Simpson/MT

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