Draft Regulations Presented for Short-Term Vacation Rentals in Unincorporated Clackamas County

Clackamas County is continuing to lay the groundwork for new regulations concerning short-term rentals, or STRs, in unincorporated areas. These STRs, also called “vacation rentals,” are defined as a furnished home, apartment or condo, all or part of which is rented for no more than 30 days, typically on a nightly or weekly basis.

These regulations include, but are not limited to, the popular online vacation rental marketplace Airbnb. A draft of these proposed regulations were presented to the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners at a hearing late last month.

The new regulations are designed to correct several problems, the first of which is that the zoning codes currently on the book do not address STRs at all. Technically, short-term rentals are not allowed in unincorporated Clackamas County; and yet, county staff know that hundreds, if not thousands, of these properties do exist.

They line the slopes of Mount Hood and other popular outdoor destinations, and they service the ever-growing Clackamas County wine tourism scene. In fact, planning director Jennifer Hughes estimated that between 1 and 1.5 percent of homes in the unincorporated areas are short-term rentals.

The lack of regulation makes it harder for the county respond to neighbor complaints about these properties, which may include noise, parking issues, trash and other nuisances.

It also creates a problem with the county’s Transient Lodging Tax. This is a 6 percent tax paid by operators of all temporary lodging facilities in the county. This ranges from from hotel rooms to rented tent spaces at campgrounds.

The Transient Lodging Tax funds go toward promoting tourism in Clackamas County. Commissioners say they have heard from numerous registered hotel, motel and other temporary lodging proprietors that they feel the Airbnbs are reaping the benefits of these funds without paying their fair share.

The Sept. 25 hearing was a lively discussion about the proposed regulations. Topics included whether they went too far, whether they were equitable compared to long-term rentals conditions, and whether the county departments who would be expected to enforce the new terms (primarily finance and the sheriff’s office) have the resources to handle them.

Commissioner Paul Savas, in particular, expressed discomfort about the new policy’s direction, feeling it veered too far into regulation and tax collection, without addressing the main concerns citizens had raised during public hearings.

To Commissioner Ken Humberston, it came down to a question of doing nothing or trying to do something. for him, the answer was clear.

The matter is planned to be brought back before commissioners for a final vote in the near future. The proposed draft regulations are available on the county’s website here.

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