Short-term rental property owners returned to City Hall — this time remotely — to remind the City Council to rescind or rethink a 2019 permit hike.
“What we want is a voice,” property owner Marie Moore said April 27. “Come to us and ask us, ‘How are you guys doing?’ ‘What can be done?’ Stop punishing us and start rewarding us.”
Vacation rental property owners said the city had yet to review the fee increase, as city officials had proposed at a February meeting.
The fee adds $400 per year to annual permit costs. Rates that had ranged from $75 for smaller units and $150 for six-to-10 occupants jumped to $475 and up, and $550 for larger properties.
The cost is disproportionate and implemented without adequate public input or city outreach, vacation rental property owners said, asking the city reconsider the need to hire for that position at all.
“A permit increase of nearly 400% seems patently unfair and aggressive,” property owner Robert Heiney said. “The group of us feel that the city has been a bit hostile to us, in a confusing way.”
The decision to increase permit fees began in 2017, when the city sought ways to improve compliance with regulations on the city’s 426 vacation rental dwellings.
The Planning Commission’s May 2019 recommendation to raise the fee to fund a compliance officer was followed by a work session in late September with the City Council. Two public hearings and adoption followed.
Revenue from permit license fees will pay for a code compliance officer, a new position budgeted at $95,000 per year, designed to cut down on quality-of-life issues related to vacation rental dwellings. The city is in the final interview stage for the position, Assistant City Manager Jon Rahl said at Monday’s meeting.
Vacation rental property owner Joe Foss, representing the 85-member Seaside Vacation Rental Owners Association, said the city was “tone-deaf” in continuing hiring efforts, especially during prolonged city closure.
Foss said city officials had made no effort to contact him or others from the owner’s association since they appeared before the council in February.
He asked for a freeze on the compliance officer hiring until the Seaside economy is fully operational, and for the city to reduce the permit fee to $250.
“We’re not going away, we’re growing,” Foss said. “While we represent 20% of the 400 vacation owners, that number will get larger.”