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Bend councilors take testimony, approve larger buffer for new short-term rental permits

(Update: adding video, comments from city, Realtors representatives)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Bend city councilors took public input, then agreed to change the city's short-term rental rules Wednesday evening after hearing complaints from people living near short-term rental homes.

The council was presented with three options and decided to choose doubling the buffer between new short-term rentals from 250 to 500 feet.

More than a dozen people came to testify Wednesday evening, giving councilors a mix of opinions, pro and con. 

City Licensing Programming Manager Lorelei Williams said Thursday, "The city council has been approached over the course of the last few years by concerned citizens who expressed their concerns about the growing number of short-term rentals."

The short-term rental program's enforcement model, like most land-use issues in the city, are complaint-based.

Councilors directed staff to provide certain scenarios of increased limit buffers options. Staff provided councilors with scenarios on 400-, 500- and 660-foot buffers. Council decided to move forward with the 500-foot proposal.

Councilors wanted to make sure that short-term rentals occurred gradually over time in other parts of the city.

"The 250-foot concentration limit was not working as effectively as they thought," Williams said. "They wanted to consider other concentration limits."

The other change councilors agreed to was to allow owners to keep their short-term rental permits, even if they rent to someone for over a year.

The changes will not take away people's existing permits.

"If the code changes are adopted on Oct. 19, they'll go into effect on Nov. 18," she said. "So, that means anyone who submits a Type 2 whole-house permit on or after Nov. 18 is going to be subject to that new 500-foot concentration limit." 

Central Oregon Association of Realtors Government Affairs Director Tyler Neese was among those testifying and expressed concerns about the code changes. 

"I think the more logical step would be to look at the code that's currently on the books that's not being enforced," he said. "Adding another 250 won't really be effective in addressing the concerns in the community." 

Opponents, including many short-term rental owners, testified that the city was basing its move on flawed data and said short-term rentals are often better, professionally cleaned and maintained than long-term rentals, while also providing the city with room-tax revenue. Opponents talked of the impact on available owner and long-term rental housing and other issues. Some said the city should stop issuing such permits entirely.

Williams said the changes may indirectly impact existing Type 2 whole-house short-term rental permit holders when they go to sell their property. The new owners may or may not be eligible for the same type of permit because of the increase in the concentration limit. 

Article Topic Follows: Bend
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Kelsey McGee

Kelsey McGee is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Kelsey here.

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