Apr 032012

Realtor Steve Salisbury giving the city council a piece of his mind; some of it “R” rated

Despite rather strong protests from several townspeople, the Newport City Council tentatively approved a new city law that allows Vacation Dwelling Residences (VRD’s) to spring up just about anywhere in town; even in well-established single-family residential areas. Community Development Director Derrick Tokos said the town’s outdated VRD ordinance was largely ineffective at regulating such uses and is sorely in need of an upgrade. He said the new ordinance before the council was carefully evaluated and refined by a special VRD Citizens Task Force and by the Newport Planning Commission.

But a number of residents, including a homeowner and a real estate agent argued strongly against allowing VRD’s, especially in single family zones because, they said, VRD’s are disruptive, problematic and difficult to control. Real estate agent Steve Salisbury said there is no greater example of the disastrous effects of homes being rented out to vacationers than in Lincoln City which is in the throes of a revolt against VRD’s. A homeowner said despite protests and complaints to Newport city authorities, a VRD in his neighborhood continued to be noisy, overbooked and boisterous with cars parked all over the area, garbage and trash strewn about, and even showed a picture of rowdy VRD renters, one standing on the street with a shotgun in his hands. He said what is obviously lacking is proper enforcement of rules and regulations aimed at making VRD’s good neighbors. He said some VRD’s are very good neighbors but too many are run by out of town owners who are only in it for the money and don’t care about the neighborhood.

However, Community Development Director Derrick Tokos said there are already VRD’s throughout Newport and that the new rules would make enforcement more effective. He said under those rules, VRD owners must have someone in charge of the property accessible 24/7 and that complaints must be dealt with immediately and effectively. Tokos said the council could adopt a graduated penalty schedule: First complaint, a warning. Second complaint, a suspension of the license to operate. Third complaint, revocation of the license which shuts the VRD down.

When asked why the city seems so supportive of more VRD’s around Newport, the council responded that although the city would receive more lodging room taxes from an increased number of VRD’s, that’s not the point. Tokos added that Newport is a tourist dependent town and that to cap or retract permission for VRD’s could cause legal problems. He cited several statewide measures that could put the city in a position closely resembling that of a “financial taking” of properties by revoking their VRD status.

Real estate agent Steve Salisbury said he still couldn’t understand why the council would even entertain allowing such a chronically disruptive use to spread further into traditional high quality-of-life neighborhoods. He said “Newport is special. It’s why its property values are again rising while those in other parts of the county are still falling.” When Tokos reminded the council that the distinguishing characteristic of single family neighborhoods is primarily ‘density,’ Salisbury strongly disagreed, saying it’s far more than that and threatened to fight the council every way he can if they pass the new rules. With that he stormed out of the council chambers.

The council certainly heard the opposition and began discussing ways to possibly further tightening regulations on VRD’s, especially in single family neighborhoods. Mayor McConnell raised the specter of making such VRD’s come under a stricter “conditional use permit” procedure that would require neighbors being notified that a VRD was being proposed on their street and to make their feelings known about it. The city would then be in a position to educate the neighbors about the city’s tough new VRD codes and of their strict enforcement.

With that the council approved the new VRD ordinance but with instructions to Tokos and the city planning commission, to take a hard look at making VRD’s in well established neighborhoods even more tightly controlled under conditional use permit provisions. They said that the planning commission should take the lead and then bring it back to the council. The council seemed committed to having some kind of a new VRD ordinance take effect July first.

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