Arch Cape

Clatsop County may place a moratorium on new vacation rental licenses while commissioners review revisions to the rules.

Clatsop County commissioners have unanimously supported a six-month moratorium on new vacation rental licenses while the county reviews two ordinances that regulate short-term rentals.

The move comes after months of conversations and discussions on proposed revisions to the rules.

Arch Cape

Vacation rentals have caused divisions in communities such as Arch Cape and Cove Beach.

Commissioners agreed during a work session in April to pause work on the revisions after strife in Cove Beach and Arch Cape.

During a work session in early June, the board agreed a moratorium was the best way to move forward while the county looks at ways to revise and possibly consolidate the ordinances.

The moratorium is expected to begin in September and the review process could be completed by February. The county has scheduled two town hall meetings in July to get public input on the moratorium.

“What we would like to have as the goal for any revisions that we do end up making is developing a better balance between the quality-of-life concerns and the impacts that short-term rentals can have on a residential neighborhood,” Gail Henrikson, the county’s community development director, said. “But also recognizing that there are investments that short-term rental owners have made, and trying to find a better balance between the two.”

Both ordinances are similar, but one is specific to Arch Cape, while the other covers the remaining unincorporated parts of the county. The key differences deal with parking and length-of-stay requirements.

The Arch Cape ordinance requires a minimum seven-night stay, and only one reservation is allowed during a seven-day period. Street parking is not allowed. There is no limit or minimum stay requirement for other unincorporated areas, and street parking is allowed.

There are more than 200 vacation rental permits in the unincorporated parts of the county. Of those, more than 50% are located in Cove Beach and Arch Cape. Clatsop Plains also makes up a large share.

Host Compliance, a company that provides vacation rental monitoring and enforcement services, found that the median nightly rental rate for vacation rentals in the unincorporated parts of the county is $277. More than 75% were for single-family homes. The others were for a single room or portions of a home.

A housing study conducted by the county in 2019 found that while there is technically an oversupply of housing, much of the housing is eaten up by vacation rentals and second homeowners.

The situation is most pronounced in beach communities in the southern part of the county.

Commissioner Lianne Thompson, who represents South County, said she wants the board to set a collaborative tone as the process rolls ahead.

Thompson, who has lived in Cove Beach since the late 1990s, said she has had concerns about vacation rentals for nearly two decades.

“What I saw was that the character of a neighborhood was changing and I wanted to do something about it,” she said. “We’ve all been working — I want to say, groping — toward a solution since then. I’ve seen some things that have given me hope. I’ve seen some things that have given me cause for concern. I think there is no doubt that county government in Astoria and the commissioners all around Clatsop County understand that there’s an issue with transient occupancy. That gives me hope.

“What gives me enormous concern is that the character of the interactions that I see in my neighborhood are heartbreaking to me,” she said. “We live in a beautiful place. We are privileged to live part time, full time as owners, as renters in a beautiful place. But here’s the thing about Oregon law. Everybody can come and visit that place. They are public beaches. With the increase in population, we are going to see more and more people coming to the coast.

“We’re going to see them coming to state parks. We’re going to see them coming all over the place. So they’re going to be coming to our neighborhood. To the idea that we can control other people’s access to our little piece of paradise and make whatever our opinion is into law just doesn’t work. And I’ve seen that become what I think is an increasing dynamic. What also gives me cause for concern is I would say the cruelty, the malice that has been involved, the idea that if someone is unkind enough to another human being they can work their will on them. That’s not positive.”

Nicole Bales is a reporter for The Astorian, covering police, courts and county government. Contact her at 971-704-1724 or nbales@dailyastorian.com.