Agendas and Minutes

City Council (View All)

Regular Meeting

Tuesday, July 16, 2013



July 16, 2013
Council Chambers
1175 E. Main Street
Mayor Stromberg called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers.
Councilor Voisin, Morris, Lemhouse, Slattery, Rosenthal, and Marsh were present.
Mayor Stromberg announced vacancies on the Firewise, Transportation, and Tree Commissions, and one vacancy on the Band Board. 
The minutes of the Study Session of July 1, 2013 and Business Meeting of July 1, 2013 were approved as presented.
The Mayor’s proclamation of August 6 as Hiroshima Day, August 9 as Nagasaki Day, and the week of August 2-9, 2013 as Japan Friendship Week were read aloud.
1.   Approval of minutes from Boards, Commissions, and Committees
2.   Intergovernmental agreements with Emergency Communications of Southern Oregon to provide emergency dispatch services to Ashland
3.   Approval of a grant with supporting contract and MOU awarded to the Police Department through Jackson County Sexual Assault Response Team by the Violence Against Women Act
4.   Oregon Public Works Emergency Response Cooperative Assistance Agreement
5.   Contract for legal services for Douglas M. McGeary
6.   Community Development Block Grant award and 2013 action plan amendment
7.   Approval of two public contracts for water treatment plant and the wastewater treatment plant chemicals
Councilor Marsh pulled Consent Agenda item #3 and #6 along with Councilor Rosenthal for discussion.
Councilor Marsh addressed the Police Department’s $12,500 match to the grant by the Violence Against Women Act and wanted the minutes to reflect the year one maximum match of $8,000 and the second year match of $4,500 for a contract not yet approved.
Housing Program Specialist Linda Reid addressed the Community Development Block Grant plan amendment.  She explained social service grant funding, noted staff used the original split for allocations for Maslow and St Vincent de Paul within the 15% cap.  Ashland Emergency Food Bank did not request additional funds so the remaining allocation went to Living Opportunities.
Councilor Voisin/Morris m/s to approve Consent Agenda Items. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed.
1.   Public Hearing “An ordinance amending AMC Chapters 18.08, 18.24.030 and 18.28.030 of the Ashland Land Use Ordinance relating to the traveler’s accommodations and short term home rentals in multi-family residential districts.” and first reading by title only of an ordinance titled, “An ordinance amending AMC Chapter 4.24 transient occupancy tax.” and first reading by title only of an ordinance titled, “An ordinance amending AMC Chapter 6.04 business licenses.” 
City Attorney Dave Lohman stated the Public Hearing addressed ordinance changes to R-2 and R-3 zones, not the R-1 zone.  People wanting to speak to possible changes in the R-1 zone could do so during Public Forum but not during the Public Hearing.  Additionally, Council could direct staff to have the Planning Commission review R-1 after hearing testimony during Public forum.
Community Development Director Bill Molnar explained the ordinance amendments related to traveler’s accommodations and short-term rentals and applied to multi-family zones, R-2 and R-3.  What distinguished a short-term home rental from a traveler’s accommodation was short-term home rentals did not require the owner to reside on the property. Staff followed current guidelines that properties needed to be within 200 feet of a major street.  The Planning Commission also suggested a cap for short-term rentals. 
Changes to the ordinance defined short-term home rentals applied to the entire dwelling, and prohibited renting rooms.  The owner was not required to live on property.  Rentals were limited to multi-family zones.  The properties needed to be within 200 feet of a major street, or be in an R-2 multi-family zone within the Historic District.  The ordinance provided a formula of two people per bedroom with a maximum of 10 guests.   Management requirements required a property owner or local contact person who was available 24 hours a day and able to respond within 30 minutes.  The ordinance limited short-term home rentals to one per person.  It would require posting house policies that identified local contact information and prohibitions that included noise.  The ordinance also specified requirements for licensing, inspections, taxing, and advertising.  The Fire Department would inspect the dwelling prior to operation.  The ordinance made it clear it was a violation to present or offer availability if the owner did not have all the required approvals from the City.  Short-term home rentals also required two parking spaces. 
Council expressed concern someone could manipulate the one short-term rental per person rule. Mr. Molnar explained staff determined short-term rentals that were previously long-term rentals through Utility billing statements.  He confirmed an LLC (Limited Liability Company) was considered a person.
Mr. Lohman clarified the definition of short-term rentals in 18.08.658 as a dwelling in a residential zone rented for less than a 30-day term or a dwelling rented on two or more occasions within a 30-day period.
Mr. Molnar noted land use costs to become a short-term home rental involved a $130 pre-application process fee, a conditional use permit that ranged from $940 to $950 then business license fees and TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax).
Division Chief - Fire Marshal Margueritte Hickman addressed fire inspections and explained firefighters conducted inspections for businesses, and residential, and did not require a fire inspector.  Short-term home rentals fell under residential.  The Fire Department would treat short-term rentals as a priority type inspection.  Currently fire inspections occur every other year.  Ideally, inspections should happen annually but the Fire Department does not have the capacity for yearly inspections. 
Property owners were responsible for notifying the neighbors within 200-feet of their intentions regarding short-term rentals and often did through a mailer.  Following initial approval, staff would go to the property to ensure the owner posted policies.  In 1991, the Planning Commission added the requirement that dwellings had to be at least 20 years old due to concerns regarding the affordable housing plan.
Mr. Molnar noted 18.24.030(K)(1) Rental of less than an entire dwelling unit is not subject to the requirements of this section 18.24.030(K) and clarified rentals in that situation fell under Traveler’s Accommodations or a Bed and Breakfast (BnB) and were not subject to short-term home rental requirements. 
The ordinance would set clear expectations for the operation.  Under existing conditional uses, enforcement was complaint driven.  Worst-case scenario was revocation of the conditional use permit.
Planning Commission Vice Chair Michael Dawkins shared comments from the Commission that they thought the process was incomplete, needed further exploration, and the City should consider short-term rentals in R-1 Historic District.  He confirmed Commissioner Melanie Mindlin recused herself from the discussion but was unclear on her involvement in short-term rentals.
Mr. Lohman addressed revisions to the TOT and Business Licenses and Regulations ordinances.  Ashland Municipal Code (AMC) Chapter 4.24 Transient Occupancy Tax under Revenue and Finance clarified short-term home rentals needed to pay TOT, and made terms consistent with AMC Chapter 18 Land Use.  It would exempt home exchanges where money was not involved and non-profit hostels.  When the City initially adopted TOT, they set a limit on hostels of $6 per day amended in 1994 to $15 dollars with a CPI (Consumer Price Index) adjustment.  Currently the limit amount was $23.25 and less than what the hostel charged for a dorm room.  Subsequently, hostels paid the TOT.  State TOT law made hostels exempt if they were a non-profit corporation under federal law with a 501c3.  Another proposed change consolidated the appeal process to AMC Chapter 2.30 Uniform Administrative Appeals Process under Administration
Changes to Chapter 6 Business Licenses and Regulations included a new definition of transient lodging, and made an LLC subject to the business license requirement.  The ordinance would also lower the current business license exemption for long-term rental units from five or fewer to no more than two.  Mr. Lohman confirmed homes renting a single accessory unit were not subject to either the TOT or the business license requirement.
Staff sent letters regarding the change in long-term rental units to property management companies and a list of long-term rentals the Planning Department had in conjunction with a class study at SOU (Southern Oregon University).  Notification of the change was on the city website as well.  However, staff had no way of tracking owners renting less than five properties long-term other than through complaints.
Mr. Molnar acknowledged the concern that Ashland may become a community of vacation rentals and thought the restrictions and regulations in the proposed ordinances would offset that possibility.  Public input he received indicated people were fine with one vacation rental in the neighborhood but concerned with parking if there were more.  Another concern was ensuring renters had access to local contact information if an issue arose in the rental.
Abi Maghamfar/President Ashland Lodging Association/Noted the Ashland Lodging Association’s position statement submitted into the record and agreed with the Planning Commission the ordinance was incomplete.   The Association suggested Council reject the ordinance amendments to 18.08, 18.04, and 18.28, take time to reassess and review the changes and affects, and thoroughly address unintended consequences.  They wanted Council to redirect the Planning Commission from further studying short-term home rentals in single-family zones and create a task force comprised of representatives from the Planning and Housing Commissions, Ashland Lodging Association, Ashland Bed and Breakfast Network and any other valid local stakeholder group to come back with an amendment.
Anita Isser/84 Garfield/Expressed concern regarding the 200-foot distance requirement from an arterial street.  She owned an apartment that met short-term rental requirements with the exception they were located 500-feet from an arterial street and two blocks outside the historical district.  Applying for a variance increased overall application costs to $3,000 non-refundable.  She asked Council to change the 200-foot requirement in the multi-family zone and review applications case by case.
Malcolm Bordelon/6599 Graystone Meadow Circle, San Jose, CA/Explained he was researching moving to Ashland and concerned turnover in short-term rentals would ruin the character of the neighborhoods.  Zoning should not change for individual demand.  He supported the Ashland Lodging Association’s position.
Vicki Capp/59 Manzanita/Listed the rates and fees she incurred as a licensed Bed and Breakfast owner. Unlicensed vacation rental owners did not have these expenses and charged less creating an unfair market for legal operations.  Paying the TOT did not equal business equality in R-2 and R-3 zones.  The City failed to take action regarding unlicensed vacation rentals when legal lodging operators asked.  She urged Council to direct the City to stop unlicensed operators as they would any illegal or unlicensed business in town and table the proposed ordinance until the City effectively collected the hard occupancy data needed to guide the revision process.
Sidney Taylor/150 North Main Street/Introduced herself as one of the owners of the Ashland Hostel.  She agreed with Mr. Maghamfar’s testimony the ordinance was incomplete and was not comfortable having Council approve the amendments and make revisions later.  She suggested enforcing the current ordinance that regulated lodging until the proposed amendments were more complete.
Corrine Lombardi/1685 Old Hwy 99 South/Belonged to the Ashland Lodging Association and owned both long-term and vacation rentals in Ashland.  Zoning was a long-term contract between property owners and the city.  It created trust and a feeling of security in a neighborhood.  Council should consider zoning changes carefully.  It limited the diversity of the community by focusing on one. 
Ellen Campbell/120 Gresham Street/Owned a B&B and commented how municipal code could create a level playing field for businesses or it could erode trust through lack of enforcement.  Many short-term rental owners who received cease letters continued to operate.  The amendments created a new class of traveler’s accommodations by removing the owner occupied requirement that would put B&B’s at a disadvantage.  Over the past 15 years, B&B’s in Ashland declined 56% due to commercial classifications that increased operational costs.  In addition, B&B’s have paid commercial insurance while short-term rentals had regular house mortgages and insufficient insurance.  If Council adopted the amendments, she requested Council lift the owner occupied requirement for B&B’s.
Lois Van Aken/140 Central Avenue/In addition to her home, she had two units, one a long-term rental, and the other a traveler’s accommodation. She opposed not requiring the owner to live onsite.  The current City ordinance was clear, fair, reasonable, and enforceable.  Arguments to the contrary mostly came from individuals wanting to continue their illegal rental activities or make a profit by converting long-term rentals into short-term.  Lifting the homeowner occupied requirement would convert long-term rentals into short-term rentals rapidly.  It was not the City’s job or in the citizens best interest to change laws and zoning to benefit a few individuals wanting to profit financially.  Encouraging and supporting short-term renters were large web based companies making millions off the proliferation of short-term rentals across the country.  Ashland had a unique opportunity to learn from towns ruined by the unbridled growth of short-term rentals.
Dylan Rounds/949 Cedar Way/Expressed concern regarding the business license requirement change from five units to two.  Business license costs would go into rent and affect low-income rentals.  He owned three units and noticed from rental applications that rent was usually 50% of an applicant’s income.  It was important to keep rents low.  Ashland had expensive property and jobs did not pay well. 
Susan Jay Rounds/949 Cedar Way/Explained she had owned her triplex for 12 years and wanted to know what prompted the change to require a business license in the proposed ordinance as well as what constituted a business.  They would have to pass the increase to the renters.  She listed all the rate increases residents incurred annually and noted most property owners did not make a large profit. 
Kim Blackwolf/354 Liberty Street/Represented the Ashland Short-term Rental Association and recommended Council pass all three of the ordinances.  There were many wanting short-term rentals but were afraid to come forward and felt bullied by the City.  This was about money.  The Ashland Lodging Association did not want Council to pass the ordinances because they did not want the competition.  Most of the people renting short-term vacation homes were families with children.  The City would be giving up $600,000 in short-term rental taxes by not supporting the ordinance.  It would not ruin neighborhoods or create a proliferation.  Most rentals hosted 2-5 people, rarely 10.  VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner) estimated the average income was $10,000-$30,000. It was actually more around $10,000.  Ashland needed options like short-term rentals and many owners wanted them.  Variety was an element of a healthy business economy.  She urged Council to pass the ordinances. 
City Administrator Dave Kanner shared a decision the municipal court made earlier that day and prefaced code enforcement was difficult and time consuming.  The City did code enforcement but people were entitled to due process and an independently elected judge decided their case.  The City brought a case against an unlicensed VRBO in an R-2 zone and the Judge ruled based on the language in the current ordinances because the City had not actually witnessed the exchange of money between the lodger and VRBO owners there was no evidence of a code violation.  This made enforcing code regulations impossible.  The amendments before Council would make code enforcement easier particularly the requirement that made advertising an unlicensed facility a code violation.  He suggested Council add that provision to the zoning ordinance for R-1, irrespective of what Council wanted to do with R-1.
Council majority did not think the ordinances were ready at this time and agreed on a Study Session, stakeholders meeting or both to determine and work on the issues.  Opposing comments thought Council could make a decision on either all or part of the amendments that night. 
Mayor Stromberg thought the Council should move forward on the advertising violation and send input regarding the ordinances to his office over the next week.  Council directed staff to bring back an advertising violation ordinance.  The Mayor and Mr. Kanner would get stakeholder input.
Council wanted more information on business equality and the disadvantages it might create, data on supply and capacity, enforcement, impacts to renting homes in the R-2 zone, what would be allowed in both existing zones, and the current amendments with the exception of expanding the geographical area.  Council also wanted information on adding another category within the 200-foot requirement for short-term rentals as well as justification for the 200-foot buffer and the 20-year old building requirement.   Council would submit additional items over the following week.  The Mayor added parking, how to get equity with B&Bs, control impact in neighborhoods, the affect on regular rentals, and the business license requirement for number of units.
Councilor Voisin motioned to table the First Reading of an ordinance amending sections 18.08, 18.24 and 18.28 of the Ashland Land Use Ordinance relating to approval management and licensing of traveler’s accommodations and short-term home rentals to a future date.  Councilor Voisin withdrew the motion.  Council moved the item to the August 19, 2013 Study Session.
There was no consensus among council members regarding allowing short-term rentals in the R-1 zone prior to Public Forum.
Nina Gillespie/1214 SE Malden Street, Portland OR/Represented Environment Oregon and spoke regarding a plastic bag ban and submitted a letter into the record.  She had a sample of ocean pollution from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and explained the harmful effects plastic had on marine life and birds.  Environment Oregon believed nothing a person used for a few minutes should be allowed to pollute the ocean for one hundred years.  She asked Council to forward a plastic bag ban to the Conservation Commission.
Joseph Kauth/1 Corral Lane #13/Spoke in opposition to the plastic bag ban and expressed concern the use of paper bags would compromise critical habitat of wild lands and creatures in stress due to environmental degradation over the past 150 years of industrialization.  He suggested appropriate use of plastic bags and a full ban of paper bags to preserve trees and wild lands.
Shaun and Carter Franks/321 Engle Street/Explained he was an Environmental Studies student at SOU (Southern Oregon University) and was familiar with the plastic bag ban.  Ashland was a sustainable town, bringing in people for eco-tourism and yet was a little behind other cities regarding the ban.  He thought it would make a good statement and was an easy win.
Rhonda Lee/2949 Barbara Street/Read from a letter submitted into the record describing her experience discovering her short-term vacation rental in the R-1 zone was illegal.  The letter she received from the City to cease operations was strong and upsetting.
Abby Hogge/1700 Parker Street/Submitted into the record a before and after photo of a foreclosed home formerly used as a long-term rental with a second mother in-law that she and her husband refurbished using one unit as a vacation rental.  She explained how having the vacation rental supported her family and allowing them in the R-1 zone would be a step to assure young families had additional income to buy a home. 
Councilor Voisin expressed concern regarding the cease and desist letter Ms. Lee received and directed staff to review the enforcement process.
Councilor Rosenthal/Marsh m/s to add the topic of a plastic bag ban to Section 13 of the agenda.  Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed.
1.   A resolution by Councilor Slattery titled, “A resolution asserting the Parks Commission’s responsibility to hire the Parks Director and disavowing any Council intent to take control of Parks Commission responsibilities”
Councilor Slattery stated that the proposed Resolution would serve two purposes; honoring the Parks Commission process for choosing a Parks Director; and addressing the perception that Council wanted to take control of the Parks Commission responsibilities.  The goal was a truce with the Parks Commission so they did not feel the Council was trying to usurp their policies and procedures.  He did not submit the Resolution to the Council-Parks ad hoc Committee because the Committee had a different responsibility.  He wanted it to be formal, at the Council level, and include the Parks Commissioners.
Cate Hartzell/892 Garden Way/Read from a letter submitted into the record and requested Council remove the following wording from the Resolution:  “Comments to the contrary are simply baseless and without substance.” Removing the sentence would promote collaboration and honor perceptions.
Stef Seffinger/Parks Commissioner/448 Taylor/Appreciated the Resolution and thought it was an effort to bring trust and respect between the Council and Parks Commission.  It was important for the community to show that two groups could work together in a positive way for one outcome. She also thought the ad hoc Committee was effective.
Councilor Lemhouse/Rosenthal m/s to approve Resolution #2013-25.  DISCUSSION:  Councilor Lemhouse supported the Resolution but was disappointed that it had come to this point and that Council had to create a Resolution affirming there were no intentions of taking over another elected body.  Councilor Rosenthal supported any effort to reinforce the integrity of the Parks Commission as an elected body. 
Councilor Voisin/Rosenthal m/s to amend the Resolution by moving Recital D to section 4 to read “Choosing a new Parks Director…,” deleting the words “The question of…,” and moving from Section 3 the last sentence or words “Comments to the contrary are simply baseless and without substance,” to Recital D.  DISCUSSION:  Councilor Voisin explained the amendment would make the Resolution stronger and clearer.  Roll Call Vote: Councilor Voisin and Rosenthal, YES; Councilor Slattery, Morris, Marsh, and Lemhouse, NO. Motion failed 2-4.
CONT’D. DISCUSSION on main motion:  Councilor Marsh thought the Resolution would help clear the air, move both bodies forward and acknowledged contention between both elected bodies in the recent past.  Councilor Slattery confirmed the Resolution gave the Parks Commission full responsibility in hiring the Parks Director.  Councilor Morris was unaware of the level of distress that had occurred and he found it disturbing it required a Resolution.  Roll Call Vote:  Councilor Slattery, Morris, Marsh, Voisin, Rosenthal and Lemhouse, YES. Motion passed.
Councilor Lemhouse announced fifty Ashland High School students would go to Japan for the Pacific Rim Bowl and a cultural exchange.  
Councilor Rosenthal/Slattery m/s to refer the topic of a proposed plastic bag ban to the Conservation Commission for consideration and potential recommendation to the Council. DISCUSSION: Mayor Stromberg suggested speaking to local businesses that had already banned plastic bags for their experience and feedback.  Councilor Lemhouse wanted the pros and cons of having a plastic bag ban added.  Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed.
Meeting was adjourned at 10:26 p.m.
__________________________                                _______________________
Barbara Christensen, City Recorder                             John Stromberg, Mayor          

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