Tillamook County’s short-term rental advisory committee continued its revisions to a proposed reworking of the ordinance governing those properties in the county at an extended meeting on March 14.
The group spent the majority of the five-hour meeting debating the definitions of the terms owner, transfer and bedroom, which will have implications throughout the proposed ordinance.
Sarah Absher, Tillamook’s Director of Community Development, started the meeting by reviewing the most recent update to the proposed ordinance, reflecting suggestions made at February’s meeting. Those updates included cuts in the purpose and scope section of the document, changes to exterior signage requirements and removing an event prohibition in favor of relying on maximum occupancy rules to govern events.
The committee then picked up their discussion about the definitions section of the new ordinance, first focusing in on the definitions of “owner” and “transfer.”
Owner had been defined as the natural person or entity that owns the property, while requiring that all people who owned a present interest in any entity must be named.
Short-term rental operators and property managers on the committee argued that this requirement would be burdensome for them and county staff as it would necessitate frequent updates for family members being added to trusts or LLCs owning properties.
Other members of the committee shot back that the requirement was important as removing it would allow ownership changes to be shielded by trust or LLC ownership.
Debate also arose over the definition of transfer when it came to intrafamily ownership changes. All members agreed that an exception for the addition or subtraction of spouses should be included, with some wishing to see an inheritance exception added as well.
Concerns around the definition of “transfer” were primarily focused on the possibility that transfer limitations could be used as a mechanism to reduce the number of short-term rentals in the county.
A limit on the number of transfers would create a sunset for a property’s use as a short-term rental once the transfer limit had been hit. The ordinance currently regulating short-term rentals in Tillamook allows for unlimited transfers.
Absher said that regardless the committee’s decision on limiting rentals or using transfers as a tool to do that, her department needed to have a clear picture of property ownership to manage them.
Eventually, the committee voted to add spousal and inheritance exceptions to the transfer section of the law and tentatively removed the language requiring all owners of an LLC or trust be disclosed.
After a lunch break, the committee moved on to a discussion of maximum occupancy, which prompted a return to the definitions section, this time focusing on “bedroom.”
The proposed definition of bedroom included verbiage requiring bedrooms to have four walls that go to the ceiling, a minimum square footage and ceiling height, and a closet. Operators and property managers objected that these definitions would prevent owners from using lofts, dens and basements with exterior windows as bedrooms.
The committee quickly reached a consensus around removing the four-walls-to-the-ceiling, ceiling height and square footage requirements.
In response to complaints about the closet requirement, Absher responded that the requirement had been borrowed from the health department’s requirements. She said that it could be removed at the committee’s direction.
Some committee members favored retaining the closet requirement, while proponents of short-term rentals said that it was unnecessary and overly restrictive. A compromise of changing the verbiage to allow dressers or other clothing storage options to satisfy the requirement was proposed.
The disagreement over the closet requirement related to the maximum occupancy discussion, as occupancy limits will be tied to the number of bedrooms. Operators noted that many rooms currently being used as bedrooms in short-term rentals did not have closets and argued that their guests did not seem to use them much.
Eventually, the group agreed to compromise by increasing the maximum occupancy’s allowance by one child, while delaying a decision on the closet question until a later date. The proposed maximum occupancy rule would allow two adults per bedroom, two extra adults and three children under the age of twelve.
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