Sunday, September 11, 2011

Business and Community Interests at Stake with Proposed Short-Term Rental Ordinance

Note: The following article was published in the Tillamook County Chamber of Commerce newspaper during the summer of 2009, to address plans by the county to restrict or ban vacation rental homes in Tillamook County, Oregon. VR owners banned together and demanded input into the process that summer and eventually were able to work out an appropriate set of regulations for short term rentals that did not seriously impinge on the rights of the owners.
Tillamook County, July 2009 -- The proposed Short-term Vacation Rental Ordinance that is currently being pushed along by the Tillamook County Board of Commissioners in Oregon raises troubling issues that affect all members of the community and a large segment of area businesses -- not just the owners of vacation rental homes.

Major concerns are:
  • Protection of individual property rights for all citizens.
  • A political process that ignores input from citizens & taxpayers.
  • Potential for major impact on areas businesses and the county’s economy.
County Commissioners estimate that 2000 Vacation Rentals exist in the county, and argue that there are potential noise, parking and safety issues with these homes. But when asked, they are unable to document that incidents at such homes occur more frequently than incidents at other types of area homes.

To infer that a few isolated incidents at rental homes indicates a need to regulate all Short-term Vacation Rentals is questionable. Doug Olsen, a member of the county’s own Short Term Rental advisory committee, describes the proposed law as “a solution in search of a problem”, and recommends a 15 month delay in implementation in order figure out if a new law is really needed.

The effort raises concerns about the property rights of citizens and business owners. Should county government be able to pass laws the affect how you can use your property or the value of your investments, without demonstrating a clear need for the law?

At the Board of County Commissioners meeting on July 22nd, a record crowd of 200 people attended, with 95% opposing the Ordinance. Ninety people signed-up to testify and only 6 favored the proposed law. At the end of the meeting, Commissioner Labhart read from a statement prepared prior to the meeting, citing health and public safety issues, and voted to proceed with the drafting of a final law. Commissioner Hurliman also voted to proceed, while Commissioner Josi said he had had changed his mind after listening to the people, and voted against the proposed new law.

Many felt that statements written and minds made up prior to the first meeting for public comment indicated that the commissioners intend to push through a law regardless of what citizens and taxpayers think. What happened to the democratic process that our country is supposed to stand for?

Short-term Vacation Rentals are a vibrant part of a local tourism economy that offers few other places for visitors to stay. Consider the number of people who come to Tillamook County to vacation who may not otherwise without this option.

Think about what families and individuals do when they are staying in the area. They eat out at local restaurants, visit the Tillamook Cheese Factory, rent boats at marinas, charter fishing trips, visit museums, shop in local stores and fuel their gas tanks prior to the drive back home.

Think about businesses that service these homes. Vacation Rental Management companies take 30% off the top of all rental revenues. Cleaning companies clean each of the 2000 homes an average of once a week. Appliances, furnishings and everyday supplies are purchased locally. Landscaping, plumbing, maintenance, construction and advertising services and supplies are purchased.

Think about the jobs supported by these types of businesses. Maybe your job. Maybe the jobs of friends, relatives and employees. The commissioners claim no jobs will be lost, but have not been able to show that potential economic impacts on the county have been reviewed.

The local association of vacation rental owners is not opposed to appropriate regulations that benefit the community, but has strongly opposed the proposals that have been made this summer, citing concerns about impacts on investments that so many people have made in our county.

Provisions in the county’s final draft of the proposed law require that all vacation rental homes comply with 2009 building codes, suggesting that major remodels would be necessary, even while other types of rentals, residences, hotels, motels, B&Bs, and businesses are grandfathered in under the existing building codes.

Other parts of the law cite fines of up to $1,000 per day, which seem to be excessive for violations of provisions concerning noise and parking. The group has proposed self-regulation as an alternative to a new law, but the county has not been willing to discuss this option.

Several rental owners have said they will stop renting if the current proposed law passes, and others have already stopped taking bookings for next summer because they don’t know if their homes will be permitted under the proposed regulations. Some say they won’t be able to carry their mortgages without rental income, and are talking about selling or possible foreclosures. The impacts are already here.

Doug Coates
The Oregon Association of Vacation Rental Owners
July 2009

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