MONMOUTH — The Monmouth City Council directed city staff to prepare ordinances for accessory dwelling units, vacation rentals and street trees.

Suzanne Dufner, community development director, presented to the council on March 19 a legislative amendment that included all three issues. After a lengthy discussion, councilors requested the issues be addresses separately.

The council first discussed the proposed amendments during a Dec. 5 work session.

“The planning commission has been working on these amendments probably for the past year,” Dufner said. “There’s been a number of work sessions to kind of go through different iterations and different drafts and address issues as they came up.”

The changes to the codes are in response to community concerns, legislative changes and updated industry standards, she said.

Street trees

The proposed changes would remove ash trees from the list of approved city street trees, due to concerns from OSU Extension Services and urban foresters regarding the Emerald Ash Borer pest.

Short-term vacation rentals

“As you’re probably aware, these are times when people would rent out their home or their dwelling for a temporary period of time for a vacationer, usually through online home-sharing site like Vacation Rental by Owner, or Airbnb,” Dufner said.

They are increasing in popularity and other cities also are going through code revisions, she said.

“Currently, Monmouth does not address or allow short-term vacation rentals in our code,” Dufner said. “Our code is just silent on the issue.”

Monmouth some short-term rental activity during the eclipse and people are showing an interest in providing that again, she said.

“Right now we have provisions for bed and breakfast units, so this is where the innkeeper stays and provides a breakfast for the guests who are staying there overnight,” Dufner said. “So those are conditional uses in residential zones.”

She said the person offering a short-term rental typically doesn’t stay at the same location or provide a meal.

“The proposed code changes would add short-term vacation rentals as an allowed use in the various residential zones in the city,” Dufner said. “We tried to strike a balance between providing an allowance for short-term rentals recognizing that this can be an amenity to our community by allowing folks to come and visit and have a place to stay in Monmouth, especially with the limited amount of overnight lodging, hotels, bed and breakfasts are available. And this also allows homeowners to, especially those who snow bird, to get a little extra use and income out of their biggest asset.”

The concerns people have expressed are related to the potential of a short-term dwelling to alter the character of a neighborhood, she said.

The proposed changes address standards about parking, trash disposal, having a local representative onsite.

“We developed a two-track system where if the home is being used for 30 days or less for vacation rental, it would be a staff-level review and we could review and approve that,” Dufner said.

A residence used for longer-term rentals, more than 30 days per year, would go through a conditional use permit process through the planning commission.

This would allow for more review and an opportunity for neighbors to comment.

“All vacation rentals will be subject to the standards whether or not a conditional use permit is required,” said Lane Shetterly, city attorney. “Even vacation rental units that are occupied for less than 30 days will still be subject to these standards.”

Council Laurel Sharmer asked about the fee she has seen when staying at an Airbnb.

“Do we get any of that back?” Sharmer asked.

“We’re supposed to,” Shetterly said.

“The rules are written such that the short-term vacation rentals are subject to our transit occupancy tax,” Dufner said. “I believe there are still some issues that we’re working through with Airbnb to make sure the collection is occurring.”

Shetterly said that “all cities” are working with vacation rental providers.

“You think there might be one overarching regulation for the state,” Sharmer said.

Shetterly said the legislature thought they did that a couple of years ago.

“We updated our transit lodging tax code to pick up the state amendments and apparently they’re still not complying,” Shetterly said. “Intermediaries that’s what they’re called.”

Councilor Chris Lopez asked if there would be a cost to register short-term vacation rentals.

Dufner said for those under 30 days per year, it may be a nominal fee, such as that to register a business, $25.

Those longer than 30 days would need a conditional use permit, the cost of which she estimated to be somewhere between $500 and $700, she said.

That would be a one-time fee for the same owner at the same location.

Accessory dwelling units

The changes regarding the accessory dwelling unit standards are intended to comply with Oregon Senate Bill 1051, which was passed during the last legislative session.

“There’s a requirement that cities allow accessory dwelling units where single-family residential units are allowed,” Dufner said.

The Department of Land Conservation & Development released recommended guidelines on how to implement the senate bill, she said.

“In reviewing those recommended standards, the city is proposing to make changes to requirements,” Dufner said.

The change removes the existing city code requirement that the primary or accessory dwelling be owner-occupied.

“The reason for that is that this could be a potential barrier for providing this type of housing,” Dufner said.

It could also become a “code-enforcement nightmare to make sure people are following it and not ignoring that standard,” she said.

Lopez asked if the change was strictly to comply with Oregon state law.

“Oregon state law says you have to allow accessory dwelling units where single family dwelling units are allowed,” Dufner said. “You can only enact reasonable standards for accessory dwelling units. They really didn’t define what’s reasonable and what’s not reasonable. I guess people will test that out and the courts will tell us what the boundaries of that are.”

Councilor Byron Shinkle asked how allowing accessory dwelling units was not simply turning single-family, low-density housing into duplexes.

Dufner said there are limits.

“There are still limitations on the size,” she said. “They’re accessory to the primary so they don’t take away from the character of a single family. There’s a requirement that there has to be one off-street parking space and it can’t be more than 40 percent than the floor area of the single-family home.”

Monmouth property owner and realtor Holly Tangeman spoke during citizens comments.

She has served on other boards that address the ADU issue, she said.

“I believe some of the language is not clear and objective when it comes to some of the standards,” Tangeman said.

She was concerned about including language that would set standards for the products used in constructing accessory dwellings.

“I believe (it) is going to be essential so that we don’t have schlocky stuff built and I know a lot of our existing primary residences are older,” Tangeman said. “My concern as a property owner and somebody that loves Monmouth is how do we go forward to make sure that we have more language and more standards so that when those ADUs are approved and permitted, that actually the product that used on them and roofing material and all of that does match and that it’s bringing up what we already have. We have a lot of older homes that don’t look so great, but most municipalities are requiring that those homes are to building standards as of today. They also have language in there whether they will approve manufactured homes or not.”

Shetterly said the city doesn’t have “particularly stringent standards with regard to building materials…in the code currently.”

“I would be concerned that to create standards that apply only to ADUs that are more stringent than would apply to our building requirements now could be seen as a barrier to an ADU,” Shetterly said. “It would be cleaner if you wanted to get into a clear and more detailed code in terms of building materials and aesthetics and those kinds of things generally. But I would be a little uncomfortable in applying those criteria and standards to ADUs and not to dwellings.”

Shinkle said he was concerned with the use of more services from the ADUs.

“How are we going to offset that expense of more people with the same tax base that we have,” he said.

Dufner said the impact may be small.

“I think the point with the ADUs is they’re small enough that that impact is a lot less than say a triplex,” Dufner said. “I understand exactly what you’re talking about — that there are more impacts to the system, but the whole point with allowing the ADU is that they’re small enough. They’re usually tying into the same water and sewer.”

They will pay more, in terms of utility fees, she said.

Regarding property tax, building permits go the assessor’s office, she said.

“They know if there’s been a building improvement or increased value to those sites,” Dufner said. “There could be additional tax revenue that’s generated as a result of that.”

Shinkle said his biggest concern is that he thought he “was living in a single-family low-density neighborhood and then all of a sudden, I’m surrounded by duplexes.”

Dufner said looking at it from the other point of view, the ADU could be used for an aging relative who is not able to take care of herself, but not ready or doesn’t want to go to a nursing home.

“This would be another opportunity for that person to have some independence and still live by the caretaker,” Dufner said.

Aside from helping a family member, not everyone can afford a single-family detached dwelling, she added, “or even the three-bedroom apartment, so that’s kind of where the need issue comes up. It’s always tricky to balance that.”

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