GEARHART — The lack of a short-term rental ordinance may haunt the city of Gearhart.
With 82 rental properties in Gearhart, Neacoxie Barn owner Shannon Smith’s attorney said Monday night she is “renting” her property to guests, an activity unregulated by the city.
This and other arguments were presented to Judge John Orr as Smith responded to charges she was operating a barn leased for commercial events. The charges brought two $500 tickets from events held this summer.
Since Gearhart doesn’t have a short-term rental ordinance, there are no rules preventing Smith from renting her space out to clients, her attorney, Dan Kearns, said.
“Part of the evidence you took at trial was short-term rentals,” Kearns said. “The city doesn’t view that as something they’re required to permit. It’s accessory use of residential property, which is expressly allowed under city code. She’s renting her property for short-term use for people who want to have their wedding there, they’re gathering there.”
Gearhart City Attorney Peter Watts said the barn is nothing like the types of short-term vacation rentals now being considered by the city for regulation.
“There’s a substantial difference between a family renting a home and a couple renting this barn to host 99 of their friends,” Watts said.
“Aren’t you cherry-picking?” Orr asked. “We have testimony that we have local short-term rentals that are advertising themselves as available for weddings.”
“A transient vacation rental is exempted from license requirement and she is not,” Watts said.
In a previous court date, witnesses stated Smith had been marketing and renting her barn for up to $2,600 a night, payable via PayPal only.
After two violations this summer, one in June and one in August, she was ticketed under the city’s zone code for operating as a business without a conditional use permit, and pleaded not guilty to the charge last month.
Two more $500 zone code violations were delivered in September.
Since 2012, Smith has racked up an additional $30,000 in civil administrative fines issued by the city’s Building Official Jim Brien for using the barn without a permit.
At the continuation of the trial hearing Monday, Watts said Smith failed to meet conditions needed to use the barn, primarily a certificate of occupancy issued by a building official.
If she did have an active conditional use permit, it would have expired anyway, Watts said.
One of her 13 conditions — certificate of occupancy — has not been met and is required for her to “rent the barn for remuneration,” Watts said.
Complicating Orr’s decision is a Land Use Board of Appeals ruling earlier this year. The board sent Smith’s request for an extension of her expired conditional use permit for construction at the barn back to the city for “remand.”
Lawyers disagreed over the meaning of remand, and whether the lack of a conditional use permit even matters. “In order to have a conditional use permit, it requires a certificate of occupancy, and she doesn’t have one,” Watts said. “How can she have commercial events? She can’t.”
“If an occupancy is required for weddings in Gearhart, I’d say that everybody who holds weddings at their house in Gearhart is in violation of that,” Kearns said. “I think, at the minimum, it’s highly unfair how many people advertise their homes as wedding venues as Gearhart.
“My client is the only person in Gearhart who needs a certificate of occupancy and a conditional use permit,” he added.
Orr closed the proceedings after asking for both parties to address legal issues. Responses are due by end of day Monday. Orr said he expects to render a verdict in November.