ILWACO — City leaders turned a unanimous thumbs down to a short-term rental house in the community’s most exclusive neighborhood Monday.
The application for a conditional-use permit from Lindsay Yamane at 2144 Reservoir Road was rejected unanimously.
The decision came after the City Council reviewed letters from Jon Chambreau, Ann LeFors, Susan Gebhardt, Paul Niemi, Doris Parks and Kurt Schmid, Jeff and Kathy Pearson, and former city leader Victoria Stoppiello, who now lives near Manzanita, Ore.
They heard testimony from seven speakers. All were against.
Council member Jared Oakes said the permit should be rejected, but the application raised broader questions of where such rentals fit into their vision of the community.
He urged city leaders to schedule that debate. Missy Bageant agreed, saying the Council needed a discussion that went beyond one single application. “The decision we make is going to effect everything later on,” he said.
Owner makes case
The project divided people in the Sahalee and adjoining Discovery Heights neighborhoods. Kristen Mathisen excused herself from the discussion and vote because as a neighbor she signed a letter saying she had no objections to the rental just before she became a City Council member.
Yamane was the sole speaker in favor Monday. Earlier this year, he bought the 3-bedroom house near his own home at 2172 Reservoir Road for $285,000. He has described how it would be efficiently run by Vacasa, an international rentals company, with an on-call representative in Astoria in case problems arose.
“We fell in love with Ilwaco and want others to enjoy that opportunity,” he said. We don’t have a ‘party house.’ We have too much of an investment into the property.”
He said Ilwaco has approved other conditional-use permits in R1 zones. “If there’s a violation, you can pull our permit.”
Yamane said he works for a Seattle company and has his own construction company based in Ilwaco, plus a small engineering consulting firm. He said he lived in Ilwaco about one third of his time; his wife. Shelley, operates a hair salon in Portland. “We have plans to be here a long time,” he said.
A conditional-use permit was required for a short-term vacation rental because properties in an R-1 residential zone do not allow them.
City Planner Sam Rubin had recommended approval, subject to conditions about issues like fire safety, parking and trash collection. He reported that a rental, with a maximum occupancy of eight, would not increase traffic in the neighborhood.
On May 1, after a lengthy discussion, the Ilwaco Planning Commission split 3-2 in favor of recommending approval.
Council member Fred Marshall questioned whether planners had adequately examined Rubin’s findings point by point, especially whether the business would be detrimental to neighbors.
Jackie Sheldon assured him they had — in considerable detail. Sheldon was one of the two commission members who had voted against, saying earlier that such a business was incompatible with a residential neighborhood.
When Marshall pressed repeatedly for exact details, he was cut off by Mayor Gary Forner. “The Planning Commission did their job to the best of their ability,” the mayor said. “I believe you are out of line.”
Paul Niemi, head of the Discovery Heights homeowners group, said residents feared noise from vacationing renters would have a detrimental effect. “While the Yamanes are wonderful people, I think it changes the use of the neighborhood and the future uses of the neighborhood,” he said.
Dale Beasley said if approved it would lead to other applications. “Once you say yes to this in an R1 then do you say no to a second? Pretty soon we are going to look like Cannon Beach.”
He said city rules on notifying only immediate neighbors about such proposals should change to instead reach everyone.
Ann Kischner, of Welcoma Place, agreed, noting it was a community planning issue, not just about one neighborhood. “If approved, it will be very difficult to stop more coming,” said Kischner, a resident since 1986. Temporary vacationers bring uncertainty. “This is a scary step to be bringing in people that we don’t know. It’s a difficult one for me to accept.”
Real estate professional Susan Gephardt, also of Welcoma Place, said Gearhart, Ore., and Walla Walla were among communities that had been forced to address problems when the number of short-term rentals became overwhelming.
“We have buyers waiting to see what happens,” she said. “It will completely change the complexion of your neighborhood. It becomes like a vacant city.”
‘This is a scary step.’
— Ann Kischner
neighbor fearing short-term renters