Cannon Beach Planning Commission meeting heats up with opinionsCANNON BEACH - More than 60 people packed the city council chambers to share passionate opinions about short-term rentals at Thursday's planning commission meeting.

The public hearing allowed residents to comment on proposed changes to the city's short-term rentals ordinance. As it stands, a provision in that ordinance states, effective Jan. 1, 2005, short-term rentals will no longer be allowed.

A short-term rental is defined as a non-commercial dwelling used for transient commercial rental for a period of fewer than 14 days. Currently, the city has 92 short-term rental permits.

The commission determined four possible options after a series of work sessions, which were then presented to the public.

Of the 27 people who spoke, six people chose option one prohibiting short-term rentals as of Jan. 1, 2005, unless hardship relief was granted. Ten chose option four, which would gradually add short-term rental permits as population grew through a lottery system. One chose option three, which would maintain a constant number of 92 permits, also through a lottery system. No one specifically chose option two, which was a gradual phase-out of permits as property was sold, although one speaker said it was her second choice.

The rest of the speakers did not identify an option. Options two through four also include the provision that short-term rental permits would be issued to the property owner, not the property.

Many short-term rental owners spoke emotionally about their love of Cannon Beach and their family vacation homes. Several said that if they were no longer allowed to rent their home on a short-term basis, they would be forced to sell. Others mentioned the fact that they only rent to families they know for, most often, periods of one week and have never had complaints or problems.

"I'm in favor of option four with a change to allow the transfer of the property permit to the family heir. The current system is working," said Bill Allred of Lake Oswego, president and chief executive officer of Hallmark Inns and Resorts, which has a location in Cannon Beach. "If you eliminate them it would be a giant step backwards. CB has a strong reputation as a family-friendly community. We cannot meet the needs of different family groups that come in motels alone. These are often the same families who rent a house 10 or 12 years in a row."

According to John Williams, Cannon Beach Historical Society president and former mayor and city manager, short-term rentals are "not a new phenomenon."

"It's been going on for at least 100 years," he said. "As I learn more about Cannon Beach's evolution, I ask people 'where did you stay when you came here?' They most often say that they rented a little house. They had too much family for one, two or three motel rooms and wanted a family gathering place."

Newly appointed Commissioner Buzz Johnson asked most of the Portland residents who spoke if they have short-term rentals in their neighborhood there. His intent, he said, was an attempt to get people to look at the other side of the picture.

Several full-time Cannon Beach residents spoke to the city's comprehensive plan housing policies, which state that "the city shall preserve and enhance the qualities that contribute to the character and livability of its residential areas." The policies also state that "the city finds that transient occupancy of dwelling units constitutes a visitor-oriented commercial use of property that is injurious to the environment of Cannon Beach's residential areas."

"The answer is option No. 1," said resident Michael Simon. "I don't believe the city's goal is to increase the number of rentals. We should be building a vibrant community, with full-time residents that help the business community get through the winter. We're not going to get that from non-resident owners and short-term rentals."

Many short-term rental owners said that they have never had complaints about their rentals or renters. But resident Marilyn Rooper said that she hasn't complained because she thought the issue was ready to "sunset."

"We go about picking up garbage, plugging our ears to the noise and not knowing who are neighbors are," she said.

"Our short-term rental was in pretty rough shape when we bought it," said Kris Moynihan of Kirkland, Wash. "We turned it into a charming residence, which we rent out for seven to eight weeks of the year to friends and family. We have developed close relationships with the neighborhoods and have two local managers. We have had no complaints."

Other residents mentioned the city's need for long-term rentals and other affordable housing.

"People cannot compete for affordable housing here if they're earning the wages of a welder, waitress or trying to start a business of their own," said resident Jerome Arnold. "We have heard about how good short-term rentals are for Cannon Beach. Sure, it's good for their (short-term rental owners) economy. They have a second home and they want the people who live in Cannon Beach to help them pay for it. We need people who work here, who are involved in their community, who are able to live with dignity, without the fear of being homeless."

There was little comment on two other items included in the public hearing. One item was several modifications to existing permit standards proposed if options two through four are pursued. These include not using children under age six to determine permitted occupancy, which would be a mistake according to resident Nancy Littell.

Another option included in the hearing proposes that the city regulate dwelling tenancy between 14 and 30 days. This form of tenancy would be termed "vacation home rental" and would permit no more than one person or group in a two-week period. Also vacation home rentals would be subject to the same permit standards as transient (short-term) rentals, including obtaining a business license, payment of room tax and registration with the city. As proposed, there would be no limit to the number of vacation home rental permits issued.

"I recommend a policy that treats all homeowners with the same rules," said resident Watt Childress, a member of the city's public works committee. "The only reasonable way to correct this inequity is to have all homeowners adhere to the 2-week policy, which is getting at the idea of vacation home rentals. That 14-day limit offers a buffer."

After listening to public comment for three hours, the commissioners closed the public hearing and set two work sessions to discuss the comments and determine what recommendation to present to the City Council. The work session dates are 10 a.m. Feb. 5 and 8:30 a.m. Feb. 19.

"I thought it was good," said Commission Chairman Sam Steidel. "I thought it was a good representation of the community. We still have a lot of work to do on this."

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