Short-term rentals headed to City Council
The Lake Oswego Planning Commission approved findings and recommendations to be given to the City Council that would overturn the City's ban on short-term rentals like Airbnb and VRBO.
The commission voted 5-1 Tuesday, with Vice Chair Bill Ward voting no — saying he doesn't believe the city should allow STRs at all — to pass the findings and recommendations they've compiled over the course of six work sessions held the past several months looking at how STRs might operate and how the City should regulate them. The City Council will hold a public hearing on that recommendation at its meeting June 4 at 6:30 p.m. in City Hall.
The commission's recommendation to council is to define STRs as a home occupation business, meaning they will be subject to the same rules as a home business in regard to licensing. Restrictions around the number of rentals allowed within the city (100), days per year a home could be rented (120), the number of guests allowed per stay (6), floor area of a home that could be rented (25%) and required parking spaces (1 per 2 bedrooms) were maintained by the commission, but they also noted that these restrictions should be flexible by allowing the operator to apply for a conditional-use permit on which there would be a public process to determine whether to allow exceptions or not.
The recommendation is a step toward allowing STRs to operate legally since the City Council voted in 2017 to uphold the ban, but then softened on the idea in 2018 and subsequently ordered the commission to look into policies and best practices.
Throughout those six work sessions the commission received a wave of testimony, written and in person, both in opposition and in support of allowing STRs in Lake Oswego. The majority of that testimony was from proponents of STRs, many of whom have stayed at a vacation rental or operated one at some point.
"I'd like to thank the staff and all the commission for doing an excellent job going through STRs. We had a number of work sessions, it was a lengthy process, but I think we did a great job coming up with a set of recommendations," said Rob Heape, planning commission chair. "I think the next step is the council meeting on June 4 — I'd ask if the public wishes to provide more testimony they do that the council's hearing,"
According to City Planner Scot Siegel, the commission's charge was to look at the mechanics of how STRs might operate in Lake Oswego, not whether they should be allowed or not, so that question still ultimately rests with City Council.
That process will likely include a lengthy discussion on one of the main controls on STRs, which requires the primary resident be present during certain hours when the rental is in use. That goes back to the original intent which the commission heard from community members in the STR survey and public testimony: to have some assurance that the city would maintain the residential character of its neighborhoods and not allow de facto hotels to start popping up.
"I think the planning commission made a recommendation that gets at that core issue," Siegel told The Review.