Depoe Bay looks to reduce vacation rental density

On Tuesday, the Depoe Bay City Council approved an amendment to the zoning ordinance that could reduce the number of tourist accommodations permitted in planned developments. (Photo by Kenneth Lipp)

DEPOE BAY — During its regular meeting on Tuesday, the Depoe Bay City Council adopted a slate of zoning ordinance amendments, one of which could substantially reduce the number of vacation rentals allowed in new developments.

City Planner Jaime White read proposed amendments to four areas of the city zoning ordinance. The first and most contentious was to change the amount of allowable tourist accommodations for new developments within a planned development zone.

Generally, short-term rentals in Depoe Bay are not allowed in residential zones. Planned development zones are overlays of existing zones intended to encourage innovative land use and can provide for some variances to enable that use, including allowing vacation rentals on up to 15 percent of total land area in underlying residential zones. The proposed amendment would change the maximum to 15 percent of total dwellings if that number is less than 15 percent of land area, likely a marked reduction.

For example, Depoe Hills, the upper planned development, is approved for 406 dwellings total, and 182 are planned tourist accommodations. The new amendment would not apply at this time, as Depoe Hills’ master plan is already approved, and some of it is zoned commercial, but the new language would theoretically reduce the number of allowable vacation rentals to about 91 total dwellings.

During the reading, Councilor Jerome Grant made his disagreement with the measure known, pointing to the city’s outsized reliance on the taxes it brings in from vacation rentals. “Also, this is in a planned development, where everybody buys into it and knows what they’re getting into when they buy into it, and we want to limit those people?” Grant said.

In public comment, Chris van der Velde, of Bend, developer of Depoe Hills, confirmed with council that the new language would not apply to his development. He said he designed his developments with vacation properties in condensed clusters, as he was aware that permanent residents don’t want to live next to a “party house,” just as recreating tourists did not want to be shushed by locals. “If you’re intermingled, it hurts both private sales and vacation rental sales,” van der Velde said. He also advised the council to consider a single-point-of-contact with the city that would have to be notified of all rentals throughout the year so they could plan and approve accordingly.

Depoe Bay resident Rick Beasley also addressed the council and said he’d never understood why the city was revising the ordinance. “If there was a mistake at all, it played into the city’s favor. I certainly don’t think it was a mistake,” he said. Given the city’s current financial challenges, Beasley said, “there is not one single case that can be made, in my mind, for reducing the number of vacation rentals,” and he encouraged the council to reject the amendment.

Joining the meeting remotely, Planning Commission Chair Roy Hageman said the amendment was meant to make the ordinance match the original intention of the planning commission for planned development zones, noting that the old language created situations where 40 percent or more of dwellings in a development could be short-term rentals. He recommended council approve the amendment.

Councilor Barbara Leff moved for approval. Prior to the vote, Grant reiterated his position. “I think the current ordinance is strict enough. It’s like we’re cutting ourselves off of a potential revenue source for the city at no cost for our citizens,” he said. He and Councilor Debbie Callender voted against the successful motion.

The council unanimously approved two other zoning items, one concerning structures that protrude into yard setbacks and another dealing with administrative provisions. A fourth item, requiring a traffic impact study for proposed developments that would generate a certain number of daily and peak-period trips, was also passed, with Grant voting against. The dissenting councilor objected to the additional cost the requirement would impose on developers.

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