Is It Sunset Time for Local Tranquillity?

Curry County’s New Codes Will Allow Short-Term Rentals with Minimal Restrictions

It’s no secret that the proliferation of vacation rentals on the Oregon coast is a problem. For residents, for towns, for semi-rural neighborhoods. Who does not have a problem? It’s the outside investors who’ve been quietly buying up “undervalued” properties since the Great Recession of 2008. We’ve seen how this has increased exponentially since early 2020, when the pandemic first hit. Suddenly Port Orford had an influx of visitors fleeing far-flung urban areas. It became a game to check out license plates around town. People were coming not only from California, but also from the East Coast, Canada, and everywhere. And they were staying in vacation rentals, because where else?

Port Orford, and the Curry coast in general, are late to the party when it comes to regulating vacation rentals, also known as short-term rentals (STRs). We’re used to seasonal visitors, it’s true. But now we’re catching up with places to the north that are actively battling with the year-round boom fueled by Airbnb, Vacasa, VRBO, and many lesser known agencies. An internet search for Oregon Coast Vacation Rentals shows how pervasive they are. While you’re on the ‘net, take a look at the experiences of Lincoln County and Clatsop County.

Curry has not come up with adequate regulations to handle the myriad issues before now, when it’s impossible to ignore that STRs are spreading beyond the cities. The problem is that the solutions presented by the county planning department would seem to serve business owners and outside investors rather than residents, who will feel the impacts most.

Take for example the fact that if these proposed new codes for unincorporated areas are approved, each STR will get the go-ahead from planning – specifically, the Planning Director. (Under her sole discretion?) An STR will be permitted “subject to compliance with zoning standards and planning clearance.” Per the codes, there will be NO hearing and NO notice to neighbors. There will be NO cap on numbers, size, or types of rental. If it’s allowed in the code (and many types of dwelling are), then it will be permitted. Hello duplex, triplex, or fourplex dwellings for rent, in the R-2 zone, for example. The closer to the beaches, the rivers and lakes, and other attractions, the higher the density we can expect.

It will be the responsibility of the county code enforcement officer to determine if any complaints about STRs warrant issuance of a citation (violation). If complaints result in three or more separate violations in one year, the Planning Director (again) may revoke the land use permit. But, a new permit may be applied for after a year elapses. Permits do not expire and may be transferred if the property is sold. Once in, these rentals will be hard to police and harder to revoke.

As we’ve posted before, Port Orford is currently crafting its own STR regulations. Will they come soon enough? Will they preserve our liveability? Will our codes matter, if unincorporated county areas all around us are uncontrolled? We’ll see. What counts right now is what’s coming at us fast from Gold Beach.

Again, here is a link to the hearing this Thursday, July 21, at 5:30 p.m., and to the proposed code changes. Be aware!
July 21, 2022, Planning Commission Hearing