WALDPORT — At its regular meeting last week, the Waldport City Council took up the issue of short-term rentals, reviewing existing code language and discussing additions to the code. The council considered best practices for short-term rental adoption drawn up by staff.
“We’re looking for that common sense, basic level of regulation. We’re just having trouble coming up with what it should be, what it should say and how it should be said,” Waldport Acting Mayor Sue Woodruff explained to the News-Times on Tuesday. “It’s that balance between tourist friendly and neighborhood friendly.”
Waldport considered adoption of a business license specific to rental properties of $150 yearly; requiring adequate trash service; visible 24/7 contact numbers on STRs; adequate parking; yearly rental history reports; quiet hours and fines for non-compliance; adoption of language limiting the number of guests based on rental size; adoption of a process for fines, enforcement and collection; prohibiting fireworks and other disruptive activities; and requiring all STRs to provide information on local rules with renters acknowledging receipt of those rules.
Jamie Michel, representing Sweet Homes Vacation Rentals as well as VIA Oregon, a vacation rental property owners group, was in attendance and offered perspective from the industry.
“I really value the way the Waldport Council is working … which is to express concern to the industry and people who understand the industry, to have a conversation around it and make some decisions around it that are good, so we can govern well,” Michel told the News-Times. “I’m not saying to do exactly what I say. Let me tell you that you don’t need a short-term rental noise ordinance because, why? You already have a city noise ordinance.”
Michel suggested that if cities relied on and enforced existing noise and garbage ordinances, they wouldn’t be having problems in the short-term rentals or anywhere else in the city. “Why don’t you just require concierge garbage service as part of the licensing requirement period?” Michel asked, not necessarily speaking specifically to Waldport. The extra money isn’t going to make or break a short-term rental, Michel said, suggesting it just be required as part of the good neighbor policy, eliminating the problem.
“If the county and the cities were enforcing these complaints across the board, not just vacation rentals, if you knew you did something bad if you broke the noise ordinance … that someone would come out, the neighbors would feel respected. I feel that’s where we get in the weeds with short-term rentals because no one was following through with the compliance officer,” Michel stated.
There’s no compliance officer answering the phone at 10 p.m. on a Saturday night, when neighbors are complaining about the hot tub party next doors, Michel pointed out. “That’s when you need someone on the job,” she said.
Waldport City Manager Dann Cutter explained, “We have hired GRANICUS, as we don’t have specific licensing yet for short term rentals.” He qualified, “Right now, we think we have 17, but those are ones which have self-identified.”
Cutter said the city expects there are more STRs operating under the radar, and that GRANICUS, a government services provider contracted to aid the city in identifying and managing STRs, is expected to identify those, or the city will terminate the contract and request a refund for the service.
“We have very few STR complaints,” Cutter told the News-Times. “The majority we receive are for Bayshore, which is not the city of Waldport. We are putting language in that will address the few problems we have, which is mostly garbage.”
Asked the direction the city intends to take regarding STRs, Cutter replied, “I cannot speak for the council, but the current suggested additions do not prohibit STRs in residential zones. Unlike other communities, it is not as significantly in demand in our town.”
Cutter elaborated, “We continue to strive to create an atmosphere for the development and creation of more affordable housing. However, the economic reality is that current construction and land costs make even construction of minimal homes outside of the affordable range, and historically, it is rare that homes depreciate, thus our current inventory is now out of the reach of many lower income households.”
Waldport is working to create developer incentives, Cutter said, “But the reality is short-term rentals in our market are not the primary factor in the lack of affordable housing, nor is lack of developable land. The disincentives due to lack of long-term rental owner protections, and the lack of a living wages create far larger barriers to housing needs.”