A committee appointed by Brookings Mayor Bob Hagbom listened this week to concerned citizens voicing their opinions about vacation rentals in residential areas of the community.
City Councilman Rick Dentino chaired the committee meeting Monday evening at city hall. Committee members Jim Collis and Richard Gyuro were in attendance, as was City Manager Leroy Blodgett and Brookings Planning Director John Bischoff. More than 20 residents attended the two-hour meeting.
The issue of vacation home rentals in residential areas of Brookings causing problems, or possibly being in violation of city zoning ordinances, was raised by Barbara Nysted in March. She lives near one of the rentals in question on Buena Vista Loop.
In April, Nysted presented the city council with a petition she said had the signatures of 13 residents who lived near the rental in question. The city has apparently misplaced the petition.
The main concerns voiced by Nysteds petition were that some of the renters of the vacation home had been a nuisance and that the use of the home in a R-1 (residential one) zoning was a violation. The petition states that a vacation rental is a commercial operation, not a use allowed in a R-1 zone.
At that point, the council had City Attorney John Trew look into the legalities of the issue. At his suggestion, a committee was formed to study the possibility of creating an ordinance to regulate or ban vacation homes within the City of Brookings.
The first thing we did, Dentino said Monday, was look at ordinances from six other communities like ours, and the first thing we found is we didnt know jack.
We want to hear what you folks want to say. Were here to listen. We havent made any decision.
Gyuro emphasized that the committee had no power to decide the issue.
The committee is charged with making a recommendation to the city council, he said. There is no force of law here.
The decision will be to recommend whether to regulate or not to regulate.
Nysted voiced concern over the makeup of the committee.
How was the committee chosen? she said. Why werent more people invited?
Dentino responded, Im not privy to why people were chosen or not.
Michael Thornton asked the committee members what they expected to accomplish after the city council hadnt accomplished anything in the two-and-a-half months since the issue was first raised.
We went beyond that charge, Dentino answered. The city attorney suggested we find out what people in the community want.
We want to illicite your input.
Thornton said that it was not up to public input.
Its really up to the city council to do what is legal and logical, he said. The city council needs to be able to defend its position, and what the public wants will not work legally.
I dont think this committee can do much but use up time.
Thornton said he believed that the vacation rentals didnt belong in a residential neighborhood.
The commercial aspect doesnt fit. Long-term rentals are not the same, he said.
Joyce Reynolds disagreed with Thorntons analysis of the committees purpose.
I think this committee is important, she said, with the complexion of the community changing so much, even just in the last six or eight months.
Many of those coming in are baby-boomers who want to retire here. They will need to rent their home here to maintain it for retirement.
I hope you will take a good look at the changing complexion of whos buying here and go forth with the direction of growth of the city and county.
Tony Mefford, who lives near the rental on Buena Vista Loop, said the problems associated with a vacation rental are real.
You had a petition, which was conveniently lost, 13 signatures out of 22 homes in the area, thats the majority, she said. Its important or that many wouldnt have signed the petition.
Mefford said she was concerned about weekend renters racing down the tiny street the vacation home is located.
She also voiced her concern about dogs running loose and children crossing neighboring property, while adult renters showed disregard for their neighbors rights and privacy.
David Griffith said most of the problems voiced about the vacation rentals were already covered by city statute.
If something needs to be enforced, pick up the phone and call the police, he said.
Griffith said it was his experience that vacation home renters were usually well-behaved people.
J.B. White was concerned about property owner rights.
We need to make sure the rights of the owner to use their property in a peaceful manner, he said. Thats why we have zoning.
White suggested that some regulation might control the situation.
Maybe we should require a license, collect a bed tax, set some standards, and if the owner doesnt conform to the rule you can jerk the license, he said. If a vacation rental is causing no problems, leave it alone.
Larry Anderson, an owner of vacation rentals, said he hadnt had the problems being discussed.
I would not like to see the city get into the situation of over-regulating, city ordinances cover many of these areas, Anderson.
The owner of the Buena Vista Loop vacation rental, Steve Zerkel of Medford, was not happy with the way his home was being described by some of the neighbors.
I gotta tell you Im a little chapped, he said. We dont advertise our home, we just rent it to our friends and acquaintances and we trust them.
Zerkel said he never intended renting his home as a money-making proposition.
The plan for the home and the reason for renting it, according to Zerkel, are all for future considerations.
Im buying it as a retirement home, he said.
Zerkel said he thought the validity of the complaints was being overemphasized.
The complaints are coming from one person and one person alone, he said. Nobody who signed the petition knows us. No one who knows us complained.
Gary Maschmeyer, who owns a house adjacent to Zerkels rental, then presented the committee with a map of the Buena Vista Loop area showing who was complaining about the vacation rental home.
This has been recently updated, he said. If you dont take into consideration the rental home or Barbaras (Nysted) home, there are 13 homes in the area.
Of those, three are vacant. Two owners said they have a problem with the vacation rental, eight said they have no problem.
Most dont have a problem.
Another next-door neighbor to the Zerkel property, Dave Smith, also expressed support for the owner.
Blodgett said the answer to the issue wasn't clear.
The current ordinances, as interpreted, dont prohibit vacation rentals, he said, nor do they regulate them.
What is the committee here for? Vacation rentals are not defined, and we need to do that.
Don Nuss suggested that a vacation rental ordinance from Gold Beach might be a good starting place for the committee.
They (Gold Beach) require a conditional use permit, payment of bed taxes and a business license, Nuss said.
If you had a conditional use permit review every year or two it would force the owners to be responsible if they want to keep the permit.
Eldon Gossett, who has some long-term rentals in residentially-zoned neighborhoods, said his concern was for the rights of the homeowner.
My objection to renting overnight in a R-1 zone is that it infringes on others right to quiet enjoyment of their property, he said.
R-1 zoning protects property rights to live in quiet enjoyment.
We should expect the city to stand behind it.
The committee plans to meet again on Monday, July 16 at 7 p.m. in the Brookings City Hall council chambers.
Committee members hope to come up with a recommendation they can take to the city council at its regular meeting at 7 p.m. on July 23.