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Talent inches toward short-term rental rules

Though the Talent City Council failed to pass short-term rental rules by a 10 p.m. meeting deadline Wednesday, it did decide on some particulars.

Members voted that whole houses, not just rooms, could be rented; they set the amount of time an operator should reside at the rental; and they determined that approval of applications be a staff function and not a public process.

“We tried our best to do a balancing act between competing interests,” City Manager Sandra Spelliscy said at the start of deliberations.

The proposed rules would require citizens to submit applications in order to offer short-term rentals and meet requirements for parking and the collection of city and state taxes.

Councilors will take up the issue again in a special meeting March 27, Spelliscy said Friday. The council has deliberated on the rules twice before, and public hearings were held in December.

Public testimony was about equally split for and against allowing people to rent their properties through Airbnb and other programs.

In a memo for the session, Spelliscy summarized proposed changes to Planning Commission recommendations that had been discussed at length by the council, and she asked for up or down votes on each section to move the process along efficiently. But councilors continued to question and deliberate and suggest changes to the sections, some of which were adopted while others failed.

“I had hoped we could kind of do this as up and down votes,” said Spelliscy after Councilor Eleanor Ponomareff raised issues about public notice when applicants seek short-term rental approval.

The council voted to remove proposed wording that said the regulations were being crafted “with the goal of safeguarding, preserving and protecting residential housing stock in the city.”

“Stating the goal as you have is disingenuous,” said Planning Commissioner Derek Volkart during public input.

An amendment that allowed leasing all or part of a property on a short-term basis was approved, with Ponomareff and Jason Clark voting against.

Clark and Ponomareff also voted in the minority against allowing the Community Development staff to approve the rentals based on council-approved criteria. They wanted a higher level of review with public notice.

Council approved a 200-day yearly residence requirement for those who offer short-term rentals instead of the 270 days suggested by the Planning Commission. Councilor Daria Land noted that 200 days is the state requirement for residency.

During council discussion, Spelliscy reported that enforcement action had been undertaken against a short-term rental due to violations of city codes. She said there are not firm numbers on how many short-term rentals may be operating in the city.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.