Talent City Council is considering a moratorium on the establishment of short-term rentals, because more people want to offer them at the same time that more residents are complaining about them.
The council directed Community Development Director Zac Moody Wednesday to come back with an ordinance after he presented a list of issues to councilors about a problem spurred by the popularity of websites such as Airbnb and VRBO.
City regulations don’t make it easy to establish short-term rentals, which fall under boardinghouse rules, and they don’t address issues raised by the host lodgings, Moody said. The city has just two approved short-term rentals, but nearly 30 are in operation.
“I’m supportive of getting everybody above ground and on the books,” said Councilor Ken Baker. “My desire would be to clean up the paperwork, the regulation side, and then maybe go into enforcement mode.”
The Community Development Department has received about 20 complaints over short-term rentals across all residential zones in the last several months, said Moody. Complaints have been made about parking, lack of on-site supervision and maximum occupancy. There have been a like number of requests to establish the boarding venues during the same time.
"I have one down the street. Believe me, those impacts are real,” said Mayor Darby Stricker. She’s also concerned about the operations’ consequences for long-term rental availability as the city works to create affordable housing.
Besides lacking zoning approval to offer short-term rentals, property owners may not have business licenses or be paying lodging taxes.
Planning commissioners were challenged by current rules when they granted one approval recently using a site plan review process
“It’s a cumbersome process. The Planning Commission went through a lot of pains doing the last one,” said Moody. Getting new regulations in place could take up to a year, he said.
Ashland, Jacksonville and other cities in Oregon have struggled with how to treat short-term rentals, where property owners either rent rooms or entire houses to people on vacations. Websites such as Airbnb and VRBO have led to more rentals by owners in residential neighborhoods. A search today of the Airbnb site for short-term rentals in Talent listed 31 properties.
Most of the rentals listed on sites are hard to find, said Moody. Addresses are not given, but pictures sometimes reveal where the operations are located. Potential clients learn the addresses when they call for information or reservations.
“They are purposely evasive. They don’t want to be known as operating a rental," said Moody, who said city staff have searched websites multiple times.
Actions against known short-term rentals can’t be started unless there’s a formal complaint. Neighbors appear to be reluctant to file complaints but do register their unhappiness during phone calls, said Moody.
Councilor Stephanie Dolan said the city's complaint form did not appear to be user-friendly when she looked at it.
“Normally, we are complaint-driven, but the other consideration is that we have businesses operating without business licenses and also not paying transient room taxes,” said City Manager Tom Corrigan.
Councilors questioned whether an ordinance was needed to establish a moratorium, but Moody said the city’s land development ordinance makes that the preferred way to go.
“If we are just dealing with moratoriums, it’s an easy thing,” said Corrigan. “To address enforcement would involve coming back to council.”
Ashland took nearly two and a half years to establish a conditional-use permit process for the rentals, Moody said. Residents there had voiced a number of concerns about the lodgings.
— Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwriter@ gamil.com.