Enforcement is the top concern for the Short Term Rental Committee.
By Chelsea Yarnell
“The overwhelming conclusion and consensus by the committee and community members is that the Department must engage in active enforcement of Ordinance #84, the County ordinance that regulates short-term rentals,” Tillamook County Director of Community Development Sarah Absher wrote in her Committee report. “While enforcement provisions are outlined in Ordinance #84, due to lack of staffing and other limitation, the Department has not followed through with enforcement actions necessary to help resolve concerns raised by neighbors and ordinance violations.”
After the County Commissioners adopted Ordinance #84 in September, 2017, short term rental homeowners (in unincorporated areas of Tillamook County) are required to obtain a vacation rental permit through the Tillamook County Community Development Department. In order to obtain a permit, homeowners must first submit drawn site plans, proof of insurance, proof of garbage service, Transient Lodging Tax registration, pay $350 in fees, and pass an inspection.
Prior to the adoption of Ordinance #84, the County still required permits for short term rentals beginning in 2009. In the year following, 347 permits were issued. To date, 827 active permits have been issued for short term rentals in unincorporated areas of Tillamook County.
The dramatic increase in properties being used as short term rentals has caused public concern.
“This started out of citizen concern,” said Absher. “The County started receiving complaints about short term rentals and the impact in our communities.”
The Short Term Rental Committee began meeting in August.
Committee member includes: Nanci Sheeron and Scott Nienkamp of South County; Jim Haley of North County; Jerry Keene of Central County; Nicole Twigg representing the vacation rental management community; Pam Zielinksi representing the real estate community; Aaron Palter representing economic development; Tim Carpenter representing public safety, and Gus Meyer as a member at large.
After five months as a committee, Absher brought the Committee’s findings and recommendations before the Board of County Commissioners on Dec. 18.
Analyzing County data, Absher reported the quantity of short term rentals in each community (excluding NeahKahNie), with Pacific City at 18 percent of all homes being used as short term rentals, Oceanside 13 percent, and Neskowin 12 percent.
And of those homes, only 7 percent were found to have a real market value of $200,000 or less.
Considering concerns from the community, vacation rental owners, and management companies, the Committee proposed a few immediate action items for consideration to the Commissioners.
• Require short term rental owners and vacation management companies to post contact information on exterior of building
• Mandate the posting of emergency procedures and evacuation routes inside short term rentals
• Design and enforce accountability measures for unresolved conduct or license complaints measures
“I’ve so appreciated the thoughtful approach the Short Term Rental Committee has taken,” Commissioner David Yamamoto said. “Traditionally, we have been a natural resource community…we have a fourth leg now: that is vacation rentals. The number of hotels and motels is very small [compared] to the number of visitors we accept every year.”
A few County residents requested that the Commissioners place a cap on the number of short term rentals allowed in the County.
“I feel that would be the wrong approach at this point,” Yamamoto said in response to the request. “This is a fourth leg to our economic stool. But, there are ways that we can control the visitor and residential experience at the same time. I believe there is.”
Amendments to Ordinance #84 were not officially made. Commissioner Yamamoto did, however, request that condos be written and included under the umbrella of Ordinance #84.
County sends notices to unpermitted short term rentals
Roughly 200 unpermitted short term rental properties have received notices that they are not abiding to the terms of Ordinance #84. Many of those, were brought to the County’s attention thanks to STR Helper.
STR Helper is a software solution that allows governments to manage short term rentals in their area. This includes pulling listings of properties across multiple short term rental platforms and checking if they are in compliance with the County.
“We spent a lot of money on STR Helper and saw a lot of unlicensed, unpermitted Short Term Rentals out there,” Commissioner Yamamoto said. “Even though it costs a lot of money, it’s going to pay for itself quickly.”