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The Benton County Courthouse has ballot drop-off boxes on its east and west sides — and you can even go to the basement and vote in a booth set up outside the Election Office.

ANDY CRIPE, Gazette-Times File

Travelers staying in Corvallis-area motels and other short-term rental properties could soon be paying a little more under a plan endorsed by the Benton County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.

At a morning work session, the commissioners offered support for a staff proposal to add a 1 to 3 percent county transient lodging tax to the 9 percent room tax already charged by the city and the 1.8 percent tax levied by the state.

In addition to hotels and motels, the tax would apply to other short-stay properties such as campgrounds, RV parks and vacation home rentals.

Under state law, at least 70 percent of the tax revenue would have to go toward tourism-related facilities or services, with the rest available for other purposes.

During the last fiscal year, the city of Corvallis (which has all but one of the motels in Benton County) brought in almost $1.8 million in room tax revenue. An additional county assessment would have brought in about $195,000 at the 1 percent rate, $390,000 at 2 percent or $585,000 at 3 percent, according to Benton County Fairgrounds manager Lynne McKee, who's championing the plan.

County Administrator Joe Kerby told the board the tax could help fund a $2.2 million renovation of the Benton Arena, an idea McKee has proposed to raise revenues for the fairgrounds.

"This is a tool that would allow the board to make improvements at the fairgrounds, whereas today we have very limited resources at our disposal," Kerby said.

McKee suggested the tax could also support other county facilities such as parks and campgrounds.

No vote was taken Tuesday on the proposed tax, which would require an ordinance to implement.

Commissioner Annabelle Jaramillo did not attend the work session, but the other two commissioners indicated strong support for the idea.

"I'm definitely in favor of continuing to pursue the conversation and begin talking to merchants and hotel owners," Xan Augerot said.

"And it definitely brings revenue from tourists into the community," Anne Schuster added.

Eleven counties and numerous cities in Oregon already charge a transient lodging tax ranging from 5 to 12 percent, McKee noted.

Linn County is considering a 3 percent transient lodging tax. Albany and Lebanon currently have 9 percent room taxes on the books, and Sweet Home imposes a 6 percent tax.

In other action, the board scheduled a public hearing on proposed code amendments to permit accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, in unincorporated parts of the county that are within municipal urban growth boundaries.

The hearing will take place at noon on June 5 in the county boardrooms, 205 NW Fifth St. in Corvallis.

A new state law aimed at increasing the supply of affordable housing requires most local jurisdictions to have ADU rules in place by July 1.

The Benton County Planning Commission has recommended a set of rules for accessory dwelling units that include the following standards:

• Limit of one ADU per single-family dwelling.

• Maximum size of 900 square feet, with a 300-square-foot garage.

• Limit of two bedrooms and one bathroom.

• Must demonstrate adequate water supply and septic system capacity.

• Owner must occupy either the main house or ADU.

Reporter Bennett Hall can be reached at 541-758-9529 or bennett.hall@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @bennetthallgt.

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Special Projects Editor

Special Projects Editor, Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald

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