The state Land Use Board of Appeals has upheld Gearhart’s regulations on vacation rentals, denying an appeal from residents who oppose the restrictions. But plans for a vote to “repeal and replace” the regulations continue to move ahead, property owner Jim Whittemore said this week.
The city ordinances enacted last October regulate occupancy limits, parking and property management contact information. Vacation rental permits are transferable only by inheritance.
“This is a huge victory for the citizens of Gearhart,” Mayor Matt Brown said in an email. “The (short-term rental) rules passed last year are working very well to balance the high number of short-term rentals, improve substandard septic systems and replace cesspools and create safe environments for property owners, visitors and citizens.”
The state decision will enable the city to regulate vacation rentals the way City Council intended, City Administrator Chad Sweet said.
“This has been very contentious in Gearhart. We are happy to have LUBA’s guidance,” Sweet said.
Fourteen Gearhart property owners challenged the short-term rental rules shortly after they were passed, citing inconsistencies in how the city defined “residential character,” among other issues.
Despite the state ruling, efforts to get a “repeal and replace” initiative on the November ballot can still proceed, Sweet said. The ballot measure would repeal special regulation on vacation rentals related to off-street parking, residential appearance, garbage service, septic-sewer capacity inspections and cesspool requirements not required of other residents.
A summary of the ballot initiative underwent changes as a result of a decision issued by Circuit Court Judge Dawn McIntosh in May.
Petitioners are still working to collect enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.
“LUBA simply ruled that the city follow legal procedures,” Whittemore said Tuesday. “They did not rule on the merits of the proposed changes to the ordinance. Voters should be aware of that fact, as it is now time for the voters to decide the merits of our non-discriminatory and far less penal proposed ordinance. The voters must decide what kind of town we want to live in.”
According to Whittemore, a 2016 poll conducted by property owners showed that 72 percent of residents think vacation rental housing is good for the economy. Seventy-two percent of residents also said this issue should be decided by the voters, he added.
Proponents of the ordinances argue the regulations help maintain Gearhart’s residential feel, while those who want to change the rules say the regulations discriminate against rental-home owners.
As of late May, Brown said the city was looking at about 285 short-term rentals for all zones, equating to about 15 to 20 percent of total dwelling units in Gearhart.