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Reservations over Airbnb rules in Talent

TALENT — It’s back to the drawing board for rules covering short-term rentals. The Talent City Council directed staff to revise proposed regulations after public hearings and deliberations during two meetings in December.

For more than a year, the city has worked on rules to cover rentals through Airbnb, VRBO and other businesses that provide short-term accommodations for visitors in homes. Neighbors have complained to city officials about the operations, with parking issues being the most common irritation.

Staff’s proposals would have allowed rentals of only rooms in homes, but Councilor Daria Land said provisions should be made that allow rental of entire dwellings.

“It’s a preference of how people are moving forward in life. It’s kind of what’s happening out there in the world,” said Land at the Dec. 19 meeting. “I think it’s primarily because people want a grounded, personal experience and some privacy that a hotel doesn’t necessarily lend.”

The council concluded the proposed ordinance needs substantive revisions after raising a number of concerns. Staff will bring back a revised version of the rules to the Feb. 6 meeting.

Among proposed revisions:

Reducing a requirement that a property owner must have resided at a house for at least 270 days for it to be considered his permanent residence. Several councilors suggested having a 210-day requirement.

Allowing a property to be rented in its entirety for up to 120 days in a year. The earlier proposal prohibited such rentals. Having a representative of a property owner available if entire property is rented was suggested.

Setting a limit on the number of occupants as a way to address residential parking issues and possible noise violations in evening hours.

Other issues include proof of insurance, regular inspections and requirements for representatives if whole-house rentals are allowed. Concerns about difficulty enforcing the ordinance were also voiced.

“There’s a whole lot of new things that the staff needs to re-evaluate here,” said City Manager Sandra Spelliscy after hearing the council’s concerns. “Also, the public should have another chance to review the ordinance.”

Entire house rentals are occurring in town and need to be addressed in the ordinance, said Councilor Ken Baker. A homeowner who wants to travel to Europe for a month and rent out his home should be allowed to do so, he said.

“Let’s not stick our heads in this sand. This stuff is happening,” said Baker. “Let’s bring it above board.”

Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood said she would prefer to limit short-term rentals to commercially zoned areas. Councilors did not support the mayor’s suggestion in an informal poll.

“I personally would be more comfortable with something like this if it was put before the voters if this was going to be allowed in the residential zones,” said Ayers-Flood. “I’m concerned about the rights of the neighbors.”

Proposed regulations also appear to be in conflict with city code provisions for home occupations, said Ayers-Flood. But Spelliscy said that short term-rentals would be their own category within the codes and not in conflict.

Six residents spoke at the Dec. 19 meeting and were evenly split over the ordinance. Several said that allowing short-term rentals impacts long-term housing in Talent. Three residents at the Dec. 5 session supported allowing the rentals, while one was opposed. A fifth said his main concern was to create regulations that can be enforced.

Bow Debey, who has a short-term rental, said during the first meeting that including off-street parking requirements was a good thing and that it was also important that an owner or representative be on site.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.