GEARHART — The ink on Gearhart’s short-term rental rules is barely dry and already there are challenges in the works.
“We have engaged attorneys,” David Townsend, a Gearhart property owner, said. “We are preserving all of our options, looking at all of them.”
Short-term rental owners could file an appeal with the state, or gather signatures to file a ballot initiative to bring an “alternative ordinance” to voters. Townsend and others would seek to enable the transfer of permits in a sale — prohibited under the city ordinance — and see the cap lifted to accommodate more short-term rentals.
“We’ve engaged attorneys on both the Land Use Board of Appeals and the initiative,” Townsend said. “We are seriously pursuing one if not both options. If we win at LUBA, we don’t need to do the initiative.”
A notice of intent to appeal must be filed by Oct. 27, 21 days after the ordinance went into effect, according to City Administrator Chad Sweet.
In a list of frequently asked questions delivered to property owners this week, the city laid out rules for homeowners with short-term rentals, including limits to street parking, septic capacity, weekly side-yard garbage pickup, landscaping and property manager contact information. Inspections will be conducted by the city’s building official.
Applicants must provide proof that city lodging taxes were paid. While property owners can apply for a variance from a requirement by applying to the Planning Commission, all conditions must be met within 180 days from Dec. 16, the last day of the 60-day short-term property owner application period.
Should opponents take action, supporters will look to the city to respond with a counter initiative.
If the city doesn’t challenge the initiative, the Friends of Gearhart, a group of concerned residents who want to maintain and preserve the city’s residential nature and quality of life, will take a stance, the group’s Wilson Mark said. “We are very sure the city will challenge the initiative,” he said. “That being the case, we will support what the city does.”
Should there be a ballot initiative, voters must be registered in Gearhart, a matter of concern to the Friends of Gearhart, which sent a letter to the Secretary of State’s Office with their concerns. They said they had determined 10 registered Gearhart voters are not full-time residents in Gearhart. “Most of these individuals have used their Gearhart properties as short-term rentals for many years, and have actively advertised these properties as vacation rentals,” they said.
Because of their concerns, Sweet shared state voting residency requirements on the city’s blog.
Gearhart’s mayoral election features Matt Brown, who endorses the new short-term rental rules, and Bob Shortman, who does not.
At a Monday candidate forum in Seaside, Shortman called the process “alienating.”
Two other councilors, Sue Lorain and Dan Jesse, are running unopposed. Each voted for the regulations.
“I’m still holding out hope that after the elections, we can sit down and do something reasonable,” Townsend said. “Whoever the mayor, I’m not sure there’s enough votes on the council for moderation.”