Ban on rentals in single-family zones under review

The Ashland City Council is asking the Planning Commission to review whether to loosen the city's ban on renting homes in single-family zones to tourists for short stays.

In the meantime, the city will continue to enforce its laws against the rentals in R-1 zones.

The city hired a new code compliance officer whose duties include cracking down on illegal vacation home rentals. Kevin Flynn started work two weeks ago, city officials said.

More residents are offering their homes to tourists for short stays because of a proliferation of websites that connect homeowners with tourists.

Mayor John Stromberg cautioned that just because the council is referring the controversial issue to the Planning Commission doesn't mean it will ultimately loosen city laws.

But it's a good start to launching a public discussion, councilors said.

Councilor Rich Rosenthal said there needs to be a robust community debate about vacation rentals.

Proponents and opponents of loosening vacation rental laws have made good points and there should be more community discussion, said Councilor Greg Lemhouse.

Proponents have said allowing more vacation rentals would create more choices for tourists, satisfy growing demand from tourists who want to stay in houses and provide needed income for homeowners.

Opponents have said such rentals undermine Ashland's lodging industry, disrupt neighborhoods and eat into the stock of housing for regular, long-term renters in town.

City Administrator Dave Kanner said people who are illegally renting their homes to tourists do not have the green light to proceed just because the issue is under review.

"Hopefully, people will voluntarily comply and stop until there is a council decision on this," Kanner said.

Councilor Pam Marsh said the situation is confusing for people who want to rent their homes to tourists.

"We've created a bind here and we need to resolve it as quickly as possible," Marsh said.

Vacation home rentals are legal in business and multi-family zones under certain conditions. In September, councilors approved new laws that people who legally rent their homes to tourists must get land-use approval, city business licenses and fire inspections and be registered to pay the city's 9 percent lodging tax.

— Vickie Aldous

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