SOUTH BEND — The Pacific County Board of Commissioners voted Thursday, July 30, to adopt new regulations for short-term vacation rentals, while also voting to lift most elements of a moratorium on new vacation rental applications that had been in place since February.

The board unanimously voted to adopt amendments that cover an array of issues, the most notable of which aims to prevent clusters of vacation rentals in residentially zoned neighborhoods. The board also unanimously voted to lift the moratorium on new vacation rental applications in R-2 and R-R zoning districts, while keeping intact the moratorium on R-1 zones for the time being.

The votes were held following a virtual public hearing that lasted about an hour, which included comments from more than a dozen people on all sides of the issue.

The new regulations touch on many topics, most contentious of which is the density rule that requires new short-term rentals to have a radius of at least 300 feet — from all property lines — from any other short-term rental property in R-2 and R-R zoning districts. The county also kept in tact its existing rule limiting occupancy, which allows a maximum of 10 people — over the age of two — to reside in a vacation rental at any one time.

The biggest issues for those who were opposed to the additional regulations were with the density rule and the occupancy limit. They also asked for the county to conduct a study on how the new regulations would impact Pacific County’s homeowners and the economy.

Rather than using distance to measure the density of vacation rentals in the county, Robbie Wright, owner of Bloomer Estates Vacation Rentals, proposed that the county set a fixed percentage of houses that can be a vacation rental. In Manzanita, a coastal city in Oregon, Wright said that the density is capped at 17.5%, meaning around 1-in-5 or 1-in-6 houses can be a vacation rental. Right now, Wright said, Pacific County’s vacation rental density is somewhere around 1.7%, or 1-in-60.

“This 300-foot rule is more draconian than anything that any other — that I can find — coastal town has done to limit vacation rentals,” Wright said.

Several people, who were otherwise generally in favor of the new restrictions, stated during the hearing that they thought the county wasn’t going far enough to restrict vacation rentals in residential neighborhoods, arguing vacation rentals should not be allowed at all in R-1 zones. They also urged the county to do more to crack down on renters who don’t follow the spirit of occupancy limits, such as those who bring multiple RVs to the property.

“We have people who have bought [property], trusting that they are buying into a residential neighborhood, and now all of a sudden they have vacation rentals everywhere with potentially mismanaged situations happening — not all, we have some really great companies with vacation rentals, but they’re not all at the same level,” said Bonnie Cozby, president of the Ocean Park Area Chamber of Commerce and chair of the Ocean Park Village Club.

By voting to continue the moratorium on new vacation rental applications in R-1 zones, the commissioners asked the Pacific County Planning Commission to have further discussion on whether additional — or different — restrictions should be considered for vacation rentals specifically in R-1 zones.

“I don’t believe that the planning commission got to finish, with covid setting in. I’m not comfortable that they finished their task,” said Commissioner Lisa Olsen on the decision to continue the moratorium for new applications in R-1 zones.

The county’s goal is for the planning commission to deliver new recommendations to the county commissioners before the moratorium expires entirely on Sept. 14.

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