Seaside City Council voted unanimously to raise annual permit fees for vacation rentals Monday night. The fee hike adds $400 per year to all permit costs, which are divided into three tiers based on occupancy.
The goal of the permit fee change is to fund a compliance officer, designed to inspect vacation rental dwellings and enforce local codes related to items like noise, litter and parking.
“One of the things council needed to look at was how they would fund a compliance officer position,” City Manager Mark Winstanley said. “It was suggested the business license for vacation rental dwellings might be the best alternative.”
The fee increase, Winstanley said, will “allow for generation of enough money to pay for costs associated with the compliance officer.”
These could include salary, benefits and necessary equipment.
In public comment, Seaside resident Joyce Hunt “highly encouraged” council members to increase the annual permit fee.
“We really need to get ordinance enforcement,” Hunt said. “This is the first step, and I hope we can keep it going.”
There are about 275 vacation rental dwellings in Seaside, Winstanley said, the majority designated small or medium. Current rates for from one-to-five occupants is $75; medium, six-to-10 occupants, $100; and 11-plus, $150.
Resident John Dunzer, owner of a one-bedroom bed-and-breakfast in the Cove, objected to the increase.
“My little bed-and-breakfast — one room with two occupants — has had a 633% increase. If you tiered it the way you had it before, my price would go from $475 to $275.”
Winstanley said the increase was based on the cost of a visit to a property by a compliance officer, which would generally be the same regardless of a property’s size.
“The reason we made them all the same, was basically because the work is all the same,” he said.
With business licenses sent out in December, the council needed to act immediately to pass the ordinance in time for the new year.
Councilor Dana Phillips showed little appetite for delay.
“If we start dragging our feet, it’s not going to go into effect for months,” Phillips said. “Isn’t that why we had two workshops? Isn’t this why the Planning Commission has done all the work they’ve done? I think we need to move forward.”
Councilor Tom Horning echoed her comments, and defended the $400 fee hike across all occupancy ranges.
“The idea of having fees set in order to meet a budget for an employee who is going to be hired to oversee this is an important part of the process,” Horning said. “If you start cutting discounts for certain parts, you start unfunding the position. I’d recommend moving forward with this.”
Councilors Seth Morrisey, Randy Frank, Tita Montero and Steve Wright added their voices in support of the ordinance. Mayor Jay Barber was absent.
One more council reading remains, on Oct. 28, before the new fee structure goes into effect 30 days later.
Future changes to the ordinance could be ahead, including incentives for property owners with a good record or who use a management company.
While exact numbers remain to be determined, Winstanley said he is confident the across-the-board increase will cover costs associated with the compliance officer.
“I think one of the things the council probably in the future could take a look might be to mitigate that increase, but right now I’m comfortable that will cover it,” Winstanley said.