Updated: Jun 13, 2022
Tourism trends suggest an uptick of visitors to the Applegate Valley. They'll need a place to stay.
Short-term rentals, or “STRs,” have been a flash point of controversy in many communities around the world. As a relative late-comer to STRs, the Applegate Valley is fortunate: It has a chance to benefit from the hard lessons learned by other communities.
This was the premise for the Vacation Rental Convening at the Applegate Fire Station last Wednesday. This open-invitation event was hosted by local organization, A Greater Applegate (AGA), and over forty community members attended. Dinner was catered by local restaurant, Sweets-N-Eats.
Until recently, the Applegate Valley was not much of a destination. Straddled between Jackson and Josephine County and lacking a Main Street or clear borders, it has been a sort of No Man’s Land.
“We live in an area that’s not really considered a 'place', AGA Executive Director, Seth Kaplan, said in his welcome speech. Tourism has been pretty light—so far.
Trends in wine, recreation, and off-the-beaten-path travel preferences suggest that more visitors will be arriving soon. And they will need a place to stay. In the extensive listening sessions that AGA conducted throughout the Applegate last year, one thing was clear: Applegate residents did not want big hotels moving in. This brings up the issue of STRs like AirBnB and VRBO.
A Greater Applegate isn’t advocating or discouraging STRs, but rather recognizes that Valley residents should have a chance to guide the process so that the area gets maximum benefit with minimal disruption.
“We aren’t trying to come up with things that visitors want,” Kaplan explained. “We want to come up with things that residents want.”
Land Use Consultant, Clark Stevens, then made a presentation
that explained how STRs fit into the county’s permitting system. Since STRs were not around 20-years ago, there are no clear ordinances that address the particularities of these platforms. This leaves homeowners confused about what they can and can’t do with their properties. So far, STRs are lumped into ill-fitting B&B provisions that are outlined in the Land Development Ordinance.
Gina Savage then gave a presentation about ways to maximize the benefits to local businesses by encouraging hosts to point visitors in the direction of local wineries, restaurants and producers. This could be done through word-of-mouth and by providing maps and coupons. Savage is an AirBnB host and also manages properties for other hosts. She has a background in interior design. She thinks the benefits of STRs are that they give local people more opportunities to make a living without leaving the valley.
Joanna Davis, owner of the Applegate River Lodge, then shared her experiences navigating unexpected county pushback after 25 years of hosting weddings and events at her lodge without a problem. After investing so much time, money and passion into her vision for the Lodge, this unexpected permitting obstacle was harrowing, but the matter was ultimately resolved. “Where there is a will, there is a way—that’s my motto!” she said.
After the presentations, community members attended four different break-out groups to discuss their particular interest in more detail. The topics were: Design, Business-to-Business Support, Permitting and Marketing.
The meeting ended with Ashley Bradfield encouraging local entrepreneurs to apply for a Technical Assistance Grant—which are funded by the State’s economic development agency. AGA was one of 33 state organizations to receive this grant and is now in a position to distribute support to small, rural businesses in the Applegate.
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