Bend City Council
Meeting at the County Administration Building
An over six hour public hearing on what to do about Vacation Rentals in Bend ground slowly along Monday evening as the Bend City Council tried to get new regulations in place to reduce the number of vacation rentals shoe-horned into normal single-family residential areas.
Hour after hour, sometimes disgruntled, at other times angry homeowners decried the explosion of noisy, and at times insufferable vacation home rentals in their neighborhoods. One said they’re destroying Bend’s liveability for long term residents just so that a few, and often out-of-town owners, can “rent-and-grow-rich.” Some homeowners also pointed to Bend’s extremely tight, some claim 0%, rental vacancy rate, which is forcing rents higher and higher for what little there is still available. It’s making it nearly impossible for Bend’s working class to even live here, they say. And tieing up so many homes as vacation rentals is only making it worse.
Packed County Commission Chambers
Others criticized the city council – at least those on the council before the last election – for not enacting a vacation rental moratorium until city government could begin to get a handle on what many believe is a city-wide housing crisis.
Local attorney Karen Johnson claimed that the economic benefits of vacation home rentals is not verified by any evidence. She told the council there are plenty of hotels, motels and bed and breakfast operations to handle the number of visitors to the area. She said by allowing commercial intrusions into otherwise stable and satisfying Bend neighborhoods, the council is inflicting unjustifiable stress on those neighborhoods. She suggested the council revoke all existing vacation home permits and go to court to make them stick if they have to. She and others said throughout the hearing that since the city council made the mess – the city council has a duty to clean it up.
A number of vacation home rental owners, as well as VHR rental brokers admitted there are problems with some vacation rentals but it should not trigger unfair punishment on those who manage well-run operations. An attorney representing local real estate companies contended that neighborhood notification for any new VHR proposed in any neighborhood is too burdensome. He also criticized any idea that a VHR permit should evaporate for the owner, as well as on the property, at the end of a permit period. He said all permits should be applied to the land the VHR sits on. Others criticized such an arrangement as forever preventing the lowering of VHR crowding. Nothing would change, they claim.
Mayor Jim Clinton
Trying to keep the issues focused on progress.
Eventually Mayor Jim Clinton closed the hearing and asked the council for a way forward on the issue.
It was pretty clear that the recent rapid rise in the number of vacation rentals within traditional neighborhoods, and their soaking up what would otherwise be part of the regular long-term rental market, is, in fact, a huge problem.
Bend City Councilor
Wants a “solution” – not a long term “band-aid.”
Councilor Doug Knight took a strong stance in favor of fixing it over a period of a few years rather than waiting ten years or more to produce any meaningful relief for many Bend families. Knight’s vision of such a process would include creating a VHR lottery every year for renewal of VHR licenses and permits. Those properties that didn’t get a winning number could be given an extension of their VHR license for up to a few years. That is, if the property value of the home was adversely affected.
If it was affected and verified through professional appraisals – one completed by the owner, the other by the city – the amount of the drop would be compensated for by allowing the VHR to remain in operation over a period of time during which the loss would be recovered.
However, Councilor Knight’s plan was determined to be of such magnitude that it should be sent to the city planning commission for review first. And that process, including getting it back before the council, could take a while.
In the meantime the council debated a number of other ideas that city planning staff could analyze for a couple of days and report them back to the council on Wednesday, April 1st. Those ideas include:
* Whether VHR density concentrations in any neighborhood should be limited to allowing VHRs within 250 feet of an established VHR or within 400 feet of an established VHR. Or whether others could be allowed within those areas as long as they don’t violate a 5% or 7.5% concentration.
* That expiring VHR permits and licenses are non-transferrable. They don’t go with the owner or the land. They run only for length of the permit and can be extended only through a formal renewal application by the owner.
* The impact of eliminating what’s called the expedited 30 day VHR license which can be awarded only if the home is operated like a VHR for only 30 days a year.
* Whether an MR Zone should require a Type II License – requiring a notice of the application to a large portion of residents in the surrounding neighborhood.
* Whether there should be an incentive to use a home as a traditional long term rental while NOT LOSING its short term, 30 day VHR status.
* And…whether street parking should not be allowed to fulfill part of a VHR’s parking requirement.
All this comes back to the city council Wednesday, April 1st, 7pm at City Hall. Although the public hearing on the matter is officially closed, further written comments from the public are allowed to be entered into the public record as long as they’re delivered to city hall by noon on Wednesday, April 1st. Take them to the City Manager’s Office at the top of the stairs on the west side of the building.