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STR regulations could be addressed by county in near future posted on 02/01/2023

Last September, the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners repealed regulations on short-term rentals (STRs) in unincorporated Clackamas County, citing a lack of funding for the decision. But as complaints from the Mountain community continue regarding the impact that STRs have on the area, Commissioner Mark Shull appeared at a meeting of the Hoodland Community Planning Organization (CPO) on Wednesday, Jan. 11 to share his thoughts.

“My personal desire is to get this issue taken care of,” he told a crowd of 113 in attendance. “I don’t want to kick the can down the road, I want to get things done so we can move on to bigger and better things.”

Shull, who noted he did not speak for the entire board, described his point of view as an advocate for property rights and that government should interfere as little as possible, but that he wanted to listen to people in the county and advocate for the best interests of most people.

The first problem with STRs he highlighted was the reduced housing inventory for residential use, which he could see alleviated by only allowing owner-occupied STRs and stopping out-of-state entities from buying property.

He noted that the problem of “party houses,” with an excessive number of guests, could be helped by limiting the number of guests not staying overnight to 15 (which is the current county code for a single family dwelling), while also having parking requirements such as one off street space per bedroom at the STR.

He also suggested an escalating fine system for violations, culminating in a $1,000 fine, a revocation of a permit and one year of ineligibility.

“That might sound a little tough but it's got to be that way,” Shull said. “Some of these outside entities are making tens of thousands of dollars per week.”

Among the other suggestions he made were fines for STRs operating without paying the transient room tax, renters unable to use STRs for an income-generating event such as a concert, mapping out where STRs are located in the community, setting a requirement for STRs to be a certain distance apart and a requirement that an STR application holder must take timely action in the event of complaints or problems.

Dozens of attendees took the opportunity to speak at the meeting, addressing other issues and concerns, both in opposition to STRs and in favor of them.

Other problems raised with STRs included hot tubs repeatedly dumped with chemicals polluting the immediate area, businesses unable to find employees due to lack of housing, excess garbage and the wild animals attracted to it, and the added demands on water and sewer systems.

“I feel the STRs are destroying the fabric of our community,” said Dave Lythgoe, who serves as the CPO’s vice president, during the public speaking period. “Our neighborhoods are becoming saturated with STRs.”

Others shared some of the positive impacts that STRs have had on the Mountain community, including the benefits to the local economy, that STR properties are often well taken care of and how they provide positive experiences for visitors to the area. Betsy LaBarge, who founded Mt. Hood Vacation Rentals and managed properties for years before selling her business last year, noted that one problem regarding housing is that current laws favor tenants and many property owners don’t want to be landlords.

“It’s really hard to find what would be great renters,” she said.

In a follow-up email to The Mountain Times, Shull noted that the next step in the process to address these problems is for the Board of County Commissioners to agree on draft language for regulations.

After that, outreach and public hearings would take place.

“The Board does not have definite dates for this, but the Commissioners are in agreement that it must be done as soon as possible,” he wrote to The Mountain Times.

Shull added in the email that he took notice of the intensity of the community when it comes to issues with STRs, both positive and negative.

“As a Commissioner elected by the people it is my responsibility to be respectful of all views, but to act on behalf of the majority so that my decisions will result in helping the most people possible,” he wrote.

He told the audience at the CPO meeting that people can testify in front of the county board to try and get action on regulations sooner.

“The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” Shull said. “Bureaucracy moves so slowly. I want to get it resolved so you can move on.”

For more information on the Clackamas County Board of County Commissioners, including meeting agendas, visit https://www.clackamas.us/bcc.

The next meeting of the CPO will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 22, at the Church on the Mountain, 68211 Hwy. 26 in Welches. Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Marcus Mendoza is expected to speak about traffic on the Mountain.

By Garth Guibord/MT





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