By editorial board • 

Mac continues to stay in front of major vacation rental issues

Cities around the country are constantly battling social technologies that affect local governance. Notably, the “sharing economy” has resulted in a large vacation rental industry. Using web-based companies like VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) and AirBnB, homeowners can create their own hospitality business. 

McMinnville has been ahead of the game in this regard. It first adopted home rental rules in 2008, and then amended them in 2013 to streamline the process for homeowners filing an application. Carlton enacted its rental ordinance in 2011, while Newberg and Dundee councils passed theirs just two years ago.

Tourism in Oregon wine country continues to grow exponentially, but the number of hotel rooms have increased only occasionally. That’s created a strong market for rentals and increased the number of applications received annually. Because of the expansion, the McMinnville Planning Commission is revisiting the issue. On Thursday night, it opened a new public dialog on the topic.

Vacation rentals frequently concern those living next to them. That occurred recently with a historic neighborhood a block from City Park; neighbors worry their street will be overrun by rentals. They don’t wish to see their neighborhood become a constant flow of tourists, with a lack of communal spirit and known people to communicate with and seek help from in times of need. 

The city is considering requiring a neighborhood meeting before a local residence is converted to a short-term, tourist-oriented rental. That would reflect similar rules with most comparable cities in the Valley. This would become a compromise of sorts from the original city law that required every new rental to go through the full planning process — using up commission time sifting through every rental submitted.

McMinnville currently has 38 vacation rentals and 14 bed and breakfasts registered with the city. Surely, there are some working AirBnBs not registered. Still, it’s far from a crisis, a term used by residents of some coastal town where, indeed, the flood of rentals has become a widespread issue.

Spacing isn’t the only point to consider. For instance, depleting the local housing inventory has also been a concern expressed by some.  

The planning commission is seeking input, and the community should deliver. Don’t wait until two rentals emerge next to your house and then berate the commission or council with complaints — after ordinance changes from previous discussions have gone into effect. 

McMinnville has handled the issue of vacation rentals well over the years, and with the right amount of feedback from the community, can ensure city ordinance balances well with the house sharing economy.

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