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Deschutes County to keep looking at possible business license for short-term rentals; DeBone still unconvinced

Deschutes County Commission Chair Patti Adair speaks at Wednesday's meeting, flanked by colleague Phil Chang, Tony DeBone
Deschutes County
Deschutes County Commission Chair Patti Adair speaks at Wednesday's meeting, flanked by colleague Phil Chang, Tony DeBone

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Deschutes County will continue to examine the possibility of enacting a business license to set some rules and requirements for short-term rental owners, including about 2,400 rental units in destination resorts. But one commissioner remains unconvinced it’s necessary.

“What’s the driver?” Commissioner Toy DeBone said during Wednesday's discussion, adding that as he understands it, “some small number (of short-term rentals) are affecting neighbors in a bad way. … What are we trying to fix?”

Many Oregon cities, including Bend and Redmond, have rules for short-term rentals to address a variety of issues, from safety to conflicts with neighbors over noisy guests, parking or other problems, and several Oregon counties do as well (see chart below). One way to do so is through a business license.

County legal counsel David Doyle advised that the regulations will need to be thorough and enforceable to avoid liability issues.

"If we give that level of expectation to people because we now have this licensing program, they are going to expect that in fact they are staying in a place that has smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors and secondary egress out of sleeping quarters and things of that nature. And if they don't, and there's a problem, again we're going to get sued," he said.

County Administrator Nick Lelack said the plan is to convene a work group of stakeholders and interested parties to put proposals before and then review by commissioners before a formal draft ordinance is the focus of a public hearing.

Commissioners had agreed to consider the idea at a November meeting. There was no vote needed on Wednesday, but with two commissioners behind it, staff will continue the development process, keeping commissioners posted as it goes along.

Commissioner Patti Adair, the new year’s commission chair, said rules are one thing, enforcement another: “How many people actually change their smoke detectors (batteries) when they are supposed to?” she said.

Commissioner Phil Chang said he understands the process will be different than other places, with more than two-thirds of the county’s rentals in resort communities which “have certain kinds of infrastructure rules already. I think there’s definitely an opportunity to take the experience of other counties and tailor it for our local (needs).”

While county Strategic Initiatives Manager Jen Patterson has reviewed other county and city regulations of similar type around Oregon, Adair suggested also looking at similar communities in Colorado.

Responding to DeBone’s skepticism, Adair said: "I think we have lost a lot of civility -- you see it almost every day. And just by having these guidelines, it will be protected.“

"By doing this, at least we give Deschutes County residents close to rentals (an indication) “their rights are being respected, their peace and quiet are being respected.”

She said that for example, having a phone number for neighbors to call if issues arise at night or on the weekends is “really important.”

Chang agreed: “This is not anti-business. It’s ensuring that businesses are good neighbors.” And he said the cost of a business license, to pay for administering the rules and enforcement, is another cost of doing business for "any responsible business.”

Article Topic Follows: Deschutes County

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Barney Lerten

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