TILLAMOOK - To help determine whether creating a countywide ordinance regulating short-term, or second home rentals would result in an onslaught of Measure 37 claims, the Tillamook County Board of Commissioners is going straight to the source.
Tillamook is the latest coastal community to address the issue. Cannon Beach and Lincoln City are among those whose leaders have grappled with the controversy.
The Board of Commissioners has directed city staff to obtain the legal opinion of David J. Hunnicutt, an attorney as well as president of Oregonians in Action, the group that authored Measure 37, the state's notorious private property rights law.
In considering implementing a second home rental ordinance - to regulate the renting of typically unoccupied homes in the unincorporated parts of the county - "we had issues with Measure 37," said Commissioner Chuck Hurliman.
"If we create a new ordinance, we're going to have Measure 37 filings against the county. There are many folks out there who have been renting out their houses for years and years and years."
According to Hurliman, commissioners made the decision to approach Hunnicutt after one member of the Tillamook County Second Home Rental Advisory Committee disagreed with the opinion of Bill Sargent, county counsel.
Sargent's legal opinion was that second home rentals in unincorporated Tillamook County fall under the non-conforming use category, which means they are permitted without regulation.
However, Darryl Carter, a committee member and Neahkahnie resident, contends that second home rentals hurt the quality of life in rural neighborhoods, and should be regulated in much the same fashion as a bed-and-breakfast operation.
"One is not the same as the other," said Bill Campbell, director of the Tillamook County Department of Community Development. He and Sargent have been researching means of regulating vacation rentals without enacting land-use law changes. If the county does decide to regulate second home rentals, it needs to know how much enforcement will cost, said Hurliman.
"We don't want to dip into the general fund." By contacting Hunnicutt, "we're hoping to get some free advice," he added.
The Second Home Rental Advisory Committee is comprised of residents from throughout the county, including Carter and Julianne Johnson, owner of OceanEdge Specialty Rentals and a Manzanita resident. Commissioners formed the committee in 2005 to respond to concerns about second home rentals in unincorporated areas, and listened to the group's findings last summer.
"Due to the complexity of the issues involved and many different interests and points of view, it has taken longer than anticipated for the committee to make its recommendations and for county staff and commissioners to study them," said Paul Levesque, county management analyst.
Carter maintains that second home rentals in Neahkahnie have become less about family and friends and more about making money by renting to strangers. Johnson, on the other hand, defends short-term rentals on the Oregon coast as a time-honored tradition.