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Did city ‘misrepresent’ short-term rental petitioners?

Language does not reflect measure, supporters say
By R.J. Marx

The Daily Astorian

Published on April 14, 2017 11:36AM

Gearhart City Attorney Peter Watts.

Submitted Photo

Gearhart City Attorney Peter Watts.

GEARHART — City officials misrepresented the meaning of a ballot proposal to repeal and replace Gearhart’s vacation rental dwelling ordinance, an initiative organizer said Wednesday.

Gearhart vacation homeowner Jim Whittemore said the city’s ballot title summary was prepared without input or review by those who wrote it and does not reflect the purpose and intent of the initiative petition, a response to short-term rental rules enacted last fall.

The petition was authored by a large committee of Gearhart property owners, including the three sponsors, Sarah Nebeker and Joy and Brian Sigler, Whittemore said.

According to the document submitted to the city, the initiative’s purpose and intent “is to assure that the interests of vacation homeowners and permanent residents remain in a sustainable balance that is good for the community, that every property owner’s rights are fairly protected and that no property owner is economically harmed by excessive rules and regulations.”

The 2 1/2-page petition offered 15 rules for short-term vacation rentals, including owner contact details, transferability, occupancy and health and safety details, among others.

The city’s summary of the document was issued in a city blog post. The full initiative petition was not posted.

“The city misrepresented (what) was the essence of our initiative petition,” Whittemore said. “The summary was written by (Gearhart City Attorney) Peter Watts and clearly seeks to misguide and misinform the public.”

Watts did not respond to a request for comment.

Discrepancies between the summary and the document can be found in details throughout, Whittemore said.

According to the city’s summary, the proposed initiative would “eliminate off-street parking, residential appearance and garbage service requirements.”

“We are not eliminating parking, appearance or garbage service requirements,” Whittemore said.

Other areas of difference run throughout the summary, he said, including inspection issues, permit caps and a proposed public vote on future vacation rental ordinances.

“There is an obvious appeal procedure that (the) group may take if they feel this is not accurate,” City Administrator and Elections Official Chad Sweet said.

This includes an opportunity to appeal the draft ballot summary within seven days.

“We will challenge and our attorneys are preparing that challenge now,” Whittemore said.


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