Jun 142018
 

The views and opinions of submitters to “Letters to the Editor” do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of NewsLincolnCounty.com, its staff or advertisers. The positions taken in the following letter are strictly those of the submitter.
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I wish to provide some insight on lodging tax and propose some questions for concerned citizens to ponder.

Lodging taxes abound in Lincoln County: Waldport collects 7% city tax on motels/vacation rentals within their city limits; Depoe Bay collects 8% city tax; Yachats collects 9% city tax; Lincoln City & Newport each collect 9.5% city tax on motels/vacation rentals within their city limits. The unincorporated area of Lincoln County collects 10% transient room tax (TRT) on motels/short term vacation rentals. When an increase in the unincorporated room tax is proposed the registered voters in all of Lincoln County decide if it will pass or fail. Lincoln County voters don’t mind charging tourists. Residents already live here and rarely have the need to rent lodging within their own County.

I’d like to clarify exactly which lodging tax is dedicated to funding the Commons, located strategically in the heart of Newport, the Lincoln County seat. In the words of Commissioner Hall “Every cent the county spends on construction and operation will come from the transient room tax.” That is, the unincorporated Lincoln County TRT, revenue set aside for this purpose from the 1/1/2008 & 7/1/2016 Lincoln County unincorporated transient room tax increases; measures approved by the voters of Lincoln County. To date, NONE of the cities in Lincoln County have contributed a cent, including the city of Newport, presumably the location with the most to gain.

I own and operate one of the few remaining small (9 unit) mom & pop style lodgings in the unincorporated area of south Lincoln County, approximately 18 miles from the Commons. I’m not opposed to the fairgrounds or 4-H; they are an important part of the fabric that defines the best attributes of rural America.

Twice Lincoln County voters approved a measure for the fairgrounds, which in 2016 morphed into the County Commons, and the lodgings in the unincorporated areas are to bear the cost. I believe the Commissioners will not call it a “convention center” because that would be misinterpreting the use of the dedicated funds, essentially a misappropriation of the unincorporated lodging tax.

Additionally a portion of the unincorporated lodging tax has always been set aside to promote tourism in the unincorporated areas. Central Oregon Coast Association (COCA) was sort of the Chamber of Commerce for those of us not located in a city. For good reason COCA was dissolved nearly two years ago. The County Commissioners have yet to find or create a replacement to promote the unincorporated areas. Commissioner Hall assured me [June 6, 2018 joint work session of the Lincoln County Commissioners and the City of Waldport held in Waldport] that the Lincoln County transient room tax (lodging tax) restricted funds for tourism promotion are set aside. In the meantime I guess the unincorporated areas are on their own. It is time that ALL brick and mortar lodgings, no matter how small, be invited to meet and provide their input on how to best utilize dedicated funds to help promote sustainable, collaborative tourism for lodgings in the unincorporated area.

Can someone explain to me the fairness of using only county TRT to support the Commons when NONE of the cities are contributing? Where is the justice in allowing the entire county to vote on a tax increase in the unincorporated area? The unincorporated area has no say in proposed city tax increases (which I understand can NEVER be equal to or higher than the County tax.) We have unique fire & rescue districts; the Alsea Port is its own district. Voters within districts get to decide the fate of their own ballot measures. Why can’t the unincorporated area be its own district and decide its own fate? Will the County Commissioners invite all the unincorporated lodgings to have a say in their own future?

It is interesting to note that the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association (ORLA) is actually suing the city of Bend for diverting the city’s room tax revenues away from tourism promotion. I am not advocating that ORLA file suit against Lincoln County. I am advocating for transparency, fiscal responsibility, and proper representation. I want County Commissioners who are accountable and embrace transparency. Certainly the lack of promoting the unincorporated areas of Lincoln County for at least a year and a half could be construed as a lack of representation. In the case of the unincorporated area of Lincoln County, is the Commons a misappropriation of unincorporated lodging tax funds?

Thank you,

Cathy Sorensen
Edgewater Cottages
3978 SW Pacific Coast Hwy.
Waldport, OR 97394
541-563-2240
milepost 158.3, unincorporated area of Lincoln County

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Statement about future of Lincoln County Fairgrounds

I agree with the members of Common Sense of Lincoln County Oregon that it is time to consider other locations for the county fair and to truly involve the community in developing a plan for the fair and commons rather than trying to shut down public involvement.

I oppose the proposal of an exhibit/convention/multipurpose center on the current Lincoln County Fairgrounds site. The fairgrounds and 4H facilities should be moved to a more rural location because county fairs are designed to promote country activities such as agriculture, animal rearing, crafts, and midway. Locations exist in our county which would welcome the fairgrounds.

I believe that instead of the supposed tourist draw of a convention center, the needs of local residents should be addressed. I support the creation of affordable housing and park area for local citizens. The current fairgrounds land is a prime location for family housing near public schools.

Janet Elizabeth, M.Ed
556 NE 20th Pl.
Newport, OR 97365

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