Short-term rental enforcement is a fact of life for all communities on the North Coast.
In unincorporated Clatsop County, the short-term rental application fee is $450 and includes review by Land Use Planning, an on-site wastewater treatment facility inspection by the Clatsop County Public Health Department and a home inspection by the Clatsop County Building Codes Division.
When a building violation occurs in a short-term rental, the building official “may immediately revoke” the permit if it is a life and safety risk. If a license is revoked, the homeowner can’t reapply for a year.
Clatsop County has two code compliance staff — Nancy Mendoza and Rob Ledgerwood — both in the Community Development Department.
In Gearhart, City Administrator Chad Sweet serves as code enforcement officer, monitoring the city’s 80-some rentals, with associated costs paid for by the city’s annual $600 short-term rental permit fee.
Staff at City Hall track short-term rental complaints. “This year so far, we’ve received three, two parking and one barking dog,” Sweet said.
The number of complaints has gone down since Gearhart’s short-term rental ordinance went into effect in October 2016.
“Our goal is to knock on doors, have a conversation,” Sweet said. “Talking fixes many of the issues. We’ll follow up with a letter or two, and if we don’t get a response, we may have to issue a notice of violation in the form of a ticket.”
In Cannon Beach, the code compliance officer works through the police department.
The city filled the role last year. Her work was “excellent,” City Manager Bruce St. Denis said, and she applied and won a police position. The code enforcement position is currently vacant and being advertised.
This fall, Seaside officials enacted an annual increase business license fees for vacation rentals, adding $400 fee to each permit, based on three tiers of occupancy.
The fee increase, City Manager Mark Winstanley said, will “allow for generation of enough money to pay for costs associated with the compliance officer,” including salary, benefits and equipment.
Now all that’s missing is the officer — a position that might not be so easy to fill.
It takes a special person for the job, Winstanley suggested. “You’re not hiring somebody who looks at this job and says, ‘This is going to be fun.’”
Whether under the auspices of community development or the police, the code officer will need the wisdom of Solomon and the brute force of the Terminator.
Like Seaside, residents of the coastal city of Yachats filled town meetings, protesting that the city had “fallen down” by failing to monitor the city’s 138 registered short-term rental properties.
Like Seaside, Yachats is in the market for a code enforcement officer, with $80,000 set side to pay for it.
But the position has proved difficult to fill, and the city manager is considering other options to enforce codes, including partnering with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and exploring computer software to monitor tax compliance.
“We currently have a temporary employee,” Yachats City Manager Shannon Beaucaire said in November. “Once we get more data, we will determine if we will hire.”
In Seaside, a salary and job description has yet to be delivered, or even a decision which department the officer will report to.
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.
For my money, if I had any, the city’s hiring squad should find an old-fashioned deputy with a heart of gold.