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The Ashland Planning Commission heard from City staff, eleven citizens, and had a lengthy deliberation on the continuing issue of homes that rent out bedrooms or smaller structures on the property to visitors. There are a number of STR’s, or short term rentals, that operate legally in Ashland. The City has also compiled a list of over 100 of these types of businesses that have been operating in conflict with zoning laws or City regulations. Many of those conflicting operations had been operating in SFR-1 zones, the single family residential zoning that was created to allow neighborhoods to exist without intrusion from businesses operating or apartment complexes.
The Ashland City Council, at at November Study Session, opted to take another look at the SFR-1 regulations on STR’s. The Planning Commission was directed to hold public hearings on the issue, and to provide feedback to Council on a list of 8 key items driving the debate. The first step in that process was the Tuesday, January 14 Planning meeting, where 11 citizens testified to Commissioners, mostly in opposition to allowing vacation rentals in SFR-1 zones. Opponents concerns included “jeopardizing the livability of Ashland,” the “need to uphold the concept of SFR-1 zoning, which was not created to house businesses,” and opposition to a revolving set of “neighbors on vacation” with the possibility of some of those being “neighbors from hell.”
Proponents of modifying current zoning regulations to allow short term rentals testified that many other cities in the Western region have found these lodging options to be a boost to the local economic engine. One citizen, who operated one of the vacation rentals deemed illegal, testified that the impact to the neighborhood was minimal and that “my neighbors didn’t even know we were operating the business.”
Thirty minutes of initial deliberation from the Commission followed, with most members as yet undecided on many of the 8 key issues listed. Several expressed reservations against changes to the SFR-1 regulations and the potentially negative impact to neighborhoods. And all Commissioners would like more input from the public and some further time for deliberation before final recommendations are sent back to the City Council. The next public hearing on the issue will take place in February however the date has not yet been finalized.