STATUS QUO FOR VACATION RENTALS

July 21, 2001 12:00 am

By WILLIAM LUNDQUIST

A Brookings vacation rentals committee voted 3-2 Tuesday night to recommend the city council take no action regarding vacation rentals.

Committee Chairman Rick Dentino and member Jim Collis felt the city needed to do more than that, since some vacation home owners have already paid for business licenses or are paying bed taxes.

Members Richard Gyuro and Lorraine Kuhn felt the city had no business even trying to define what a vacation rental is, much less regulate them in any way.

Earl Brewer, who had been involved in city government since Brookings was incorporated, had the swing vote.

He voted with Gyuro and Kuhn, noting that the citys nuisance ordinances could be strengthened if there was a problem with a vacation rental.

Brewers inclusion on the committee caused some controversy among audience members, however.

City Manager Leroy Blodgett said Brewer was appointed to the committee along with all the other members, but had been unable to attend the first two meetings.

Members tapped into Brewers knowledge of the history of vacation rentals. He said there had been a problem with one once before, but he couldnt remember when.

His absence from earlier meetings showed when, after planning consultant Jim Capp gave a lengthy report on vacation rental ordinances in other coastal cities, Brewer suggested the city look into vacation rental ordinances in other coastal cities.

He also asked at one point if he was a member of the committee, and at another if he had a vote. Members told him he was and did.

Audience members were upset, however, that Brewer, who had heard no public testimony on the issue, had the deciding vote.

Dentino, urged on by Gyuro, did not accept any comments from citizens at Tuesday nights meeting.

Blodgett said if the committee had recommended regulation of vacation rentals, it would have gone to the planning commission.

He felt the committees decision should still go to the planning commission, since it is a land use issue.

Dentino opened the meeting by saying city ordinances that might apply to the issue were not crystal clear.

He said the committee had to decide whether it would define vacation rentals differently than other rentals, and if so, decide to regulate them or not.

He said another route might be to totally ban vacation rentals in Brookings. City Attorney John Trew said the city couldnt do that.

Collis said another option would be to recommend the city council take no action.

There is some justification for that, he said.

Collis estimated there were 30 to 50 vacation rentals in Brookings, and there had been complaints on only one. There was mixed evidence on that, he said.

People see different things differently, he said.

Collis said some people were already paying a bed tax on vacation rentals in Brookings, or were licensed, and some were not.

He said some cities regulate vacation rentals a lot, others little. He also questioned how regulations would be enforced.

Members then asked Capp for the report he was commissioned to make. Capp said the Brookings code does not specifically refer to vacation rentals. He said that might mean a decision had been made to not allow such a use, or it might mean the issue had not come up before.

He said the codes similar-use clause could be used to say vacation rentals are similar to residential use and could be allowed in residential zones. He said that would lead to a comparison of residential and commercial uses. A vacation rental is almost one and almost the other, he said.

Capp said part of the need for the use is to enable people to buy second homes for retirement. He said that could also be seen as a subsidy from the city to buyers.

I dont know if you want to get in for that aspect alone, he said.

Capp also reviewed vacation rental ordinances from Bandon, Cannon Beach, Depoe Bay, Lincoln City, Manzanita, Rockaway Beach, Gold Beach and Seaside.

He said the sample ordinances were both subjective, as in the use should not adversely affect a neighbor, and objective, as in specifying a parking space for each bedroom.

I get nervous when I see subjective ordinances, he said.

Capp said the vacation rental permits were also personal and not transferable to future owners of the property. He said they usually require an address and phone number of a local responsible person, a city business license and regular garbage service.

He said some cities cap the percentage of vacation rentals in residential zones.

Gyuro then read a prepared statement which said the issue had come to the city based on one complaint. He said of 16 citizens speaking at the public meeting, only two had negative experiences with vacation rentals. He said the person living next to the rental in question made positive comments.

Gyuro said vacation rentals he checked on were better maintained than many long-term rentals. In case of problems, he said, the city police could be called.

He said limiting terms of rentals in R-1 zones flies in the face of American private property rights.

Kuhn said she spoke with three owners and managers of vacation rentals and had not found many problems.

Vacation rental control is not something I, as a city councilor, want to be involved with, she said.

Kuhn felt regulation of vacation rentals couldnt be accomplished overnight.

Brewer said it was a case of making a mountain out of a molehill. He said hes heard of a place in Hawaii that rented out to 11 different people in one month, though it wasnt in an R-1 zone.

He said such places could come into demand in Brookings, and would then have to be regulated.

The original complaint about the vacation rental in Brookings from Barbra Nysted, however, alleged that it was being rented out to different people every day or two.

After the meeting, Nysted questioned Brewers inclusion in the vote and said she would be contacting a good land-use lawyer.