Letters to editor

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I am writing in regard to the new proposed Short Term Rental License Fee Ordinance #86.

Although I support the housing and public safety initiatives this Ordinance is designed to help fund, I take issue with how Tillamook County plans to fund them.

Adding this 1-2% tax, or fee on top of the existing 10% TLT and $250 annual permit fee the county currently charges, would make Tillamook County the highest gross “Tourist STR Tax” County on the Oregon Coast, in addition to one of the highest in the state.

Lets be clear…this Ordinance applies only to STR’s that meet the definition of a “dwelling unit”, which would NOT include Hotels & Motels except those that provide in room cooking and eating facilities, as commonly defined ( and as defined in Ordinance #84 ). The main burden of this new Fee falls squarely on the shoulders of individual homeowners who rent their homes out to overnight guests. I would also note, the way this Ordinance is written, Hotel/Motel owners who offered kitchenette type accommodations would need to separate their quarterly gross revenue from whatever rooms met this criteria to pay the new Fee…an additional burden on these small business owners as well.

I ask..why does this Fee not apply to ALL Hotels & Motels in Unincorporated Tillamook County? Shouldn’t they also bear this new tax burden if the funds are so desperately needed?

Additionally, this new “Fee” is an obvious attempted “End Run” around Oregon HB 2267 and ORS 320.350, which mandates 70% of new or increased local lodging taxes be directed to tourism promotion or tourism related facilities. Calling it a separate “Fee” doesn’t negate the fact that it’s really just another name for an additional gross revenue tax TLT, and will most likely, if passed, be challenged as such in court.

Bend attempted to pay for road maintenance over and above the 30% allowance via Transient Lodging Taxes, and was found to violate state law in a Deschutes County judgement ( Deschutes County Circuit Court Case No. 17CV41968 ). Does Tillamook County really want to subject it’s citizens to the same legal challenges and unnecessary costs pursuing this?

It would also require STR operators to unfairly shoulder the burden that benefits many other businesses such as non-residential type hotel/motels, restaurants, bars, grocery stores, marinas, not to mention attractions such as the Tillamook Creamery and the Air Museum. Shouldn’t ALL beneficiaries of Tourism in our county equal share this burden?

In addition, since the fees are calculated based on quarterly gross revenue, operators are unable to pass along this tax directly to their guests, except in the form of an overall nightly rate increase.

In closing, I would suggest a more broad based tax or fee structure on all stakeholders that benefit from Tourism would be much fairer, but if we can’t have that, at least use the currently accepted TLT structure to cover any new proposed initiatives within the 30% allowed for City/County services.

Tourism is something that benefits us all, which is why Oregon wisely passed HB 2267 and ORS 320.350 in the first place, so that TLT taxes are primarily spent to promote the very thing that generates them, as well as giving cities and counties a reasonable level of funding to spend as they wish.

-Pete Stone, Rockaway Beach 

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