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Property owners miffed by proposed rental rules

GEARHART — Property owners who offer short-term vacation rentals in the seaside town of Gearhart are pushing back against proposed restrictions.

The City Council is considering an ordinance that would tax short-term vacation rentals and require property owners to apply for a permit.

Property owners would be required to pay a $600 fee, provide proof of inspection, have a 24-hour representative and post a tsunami-evacuation map.

Some property owners feel the city has moved too quickly and are asking city leaders for a compromise, The Daily Astorian reported Thursday. They commissioned a survey on the issue.

"Half the voters are against regulations or have no opinion," vacation rental property owner Jim Whittemore said in a letter to the City Council. "The message is the voters of the city want this process to take more time — that we need a compromise."

Short-term vacation rentals have become an increasingly divisive issue in Oregon's coastal communities, including Gearhart, as online rental booking sites proliferate.

Some residents say the rentals bring in people who don't participate in the community but change its character.

Other residents say they wouldn't be able to hang onto seaside homes that have been in their families for years without the rental income.

City officials also see an untapped economic opportunity and began considering taking action last year.

More than 10,000 people come through Gearhart through the short-term rentals, City Administrator Chad Sweet said last October.

If Gearhart adopted a 7 percent tax on the vacation rentals, it could bring more than $176,000 per year into the city's coffers.

Opponents to the rules could file an appeal with the state Land Use Board of Appeals or present a referendum challenging all or any part of the ordinance they want to change or remove, Sweet said.

The City Council will vote to finalize the new regulations Sept. 7.