Owners of licensed hotels, bed and breakfast inns, and vacation rental properties have banded together to ask the city of Ashland to crack down on illegal vacation home rentals.
The newly formed Ashland Lodging Association also wants the city to abandon any efforts to accommodate the unlicensed lodging with a loosening of city rules.
The Ashland City Council will hear more on the issue during a meeting that begins at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the Ashland Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St.
The practice of renting out homes for overnight or short stays in Ashland — and across the nation and internationally — has boomed in recent years thanks to websites such as www.vrbo.com. The letters in the website address stand for "vacation rentals by owner."
Ashland allows licensed vacation rentals in multifamily zoning districts if they are within 200 feet of major streets.
The Ashland Planning Commission has recommended loosening those rules to also allow vacation rentals in multifamily zones that are within walking distance of downtown.
The Ashland Housing Commission has recommended no changes, saying that increased vacation rentals to tourists would reduce the availability of housing to permanent residents and drive up housing prices.
The Ashland Lodging Association of licensed lodging operations submitted a letter to Mayor John Stromberg and the council last week stating that members believe the number of unlicensed operations is now equal to the number of licensed operations.
"As licensed and legally operating lodging businesses in the city of Ashland, we urge you to abandon any effort to accommodate these unlicensed operations," the letter said. "Instead, actively enforce the current rules and regulations, and shut down these illegal operations."
The unlicensed operations are not paying the city's 9 percent lodging tax, haven't paid to go through the planning process, don't have business licenses, usually lack adequate homeowner's insurance to cover commercial lodging activity, and haven't undergone Jackson County health and safety inspections, according to licensed lodging operators.
Proponents of vacation rentals of homes have said the lodging provides added choices to tourists, boosts tourism spending, and provides income to homeowners.
In other business on Tuesday, the council is scheduled to consider whether to allow pets to accompany homeless people when the city opens emergency overnight shelter space, which occurs when temperatures drop to 20 degrees or less.
For a complete list of agenda items and for details on each item, visit www.ashland.or.us/Page.asp?NavID=15402.
Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.