Lincoln City VRD report: Heavy on common sense and strict enforcement

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Jan 232013

Lincoln City City Council
Talking VRD’s

Professor Richard Birke
Willamette University – Dispute Mediator

Lincoln City City Councilors received a long awaited update on how the city’s vacation rental dwelling (VRD) dilemma might be resolved. For years many Lincoln City residents have complained long and loudly that a number of vacation rental dwellings were poorly run and were very disruptive to surrounding residents; garbage on the ground, cars parked on lawns and narrow road shoulders, landscaping not kept up and loud parties late into the night.

In frustration the council hired Professor Richard Birke, Director for Dispute Resolution at Willamette University who, along with some of his students, did a community-wide assessment of the problems with VRD’s and involved a broad spectrum of the city; permanent residents, VRD owners, VRD management services and business owners.

In a general overview of what participants and a special working group arrived at for solutions, Birke said a lot of it was based on common sense, but common sense tempered with easily understandable rules and strict enforcement of those rules. Birke said no code enforcement or police officer should go lax on enforcement. Birke claimed that it is the “slap on the wrist” instead of effective enforcement that makes complaining neighbors angry.

Birke said the VRD task force agreed that most VRD’s should be close to the beach, but not dominate the beach. He said the group wanted VRD’s to get along with their neighbors, especially senior citizens and other retired families who want to enjoy living in Lincoln City without a lot of loud parties going on. The want VRD owners to subscribe to trash pick up, have enough trash bins, take care of their landscaping and keep their buildings looking neat and tidy.

Birke added that neighbors who have problems with VRD’s need a single number to call to get either the police or a code enforcement officer to take care of a complaint. Since VRD’s are issued a permit with the name of the VRD owner or a local property management firm, their phone numbers should be available to the police department and the code enforcement officers so they can pick up the phone and get immediate corrective action. Birke said if a pattern of willful neglect builds up, a VRD’s owner should have his or her license suspended, or in the extreme, revoked. As for property management firms who act as agents for VRD owners, the group said the property management industry around town should be enlisted to “police their own.” At least it ought to be tried initially.

Birke said the group endorsed the city having what’s called a manual of Best Management Practices for VRD operations and management and that the city should encourage the use of such a manual for both veteran as well as new VRD owners and/or property management firms.

If a VRD owner is not cooperating in solving a problem with his or her property, Birke said the study group favors heavy fines for violations. First offense $5,000. Second offense $10,000, Third offense $25,000. Birke said the heavy fines must be high enough so that wealthy out-of-town VRD owners can’t just write the fine off as a cost of doing business. “It’s got to hurt, or it won’t work,” he said.

Birke said the group drew up a map of Lincoln City showing where VRD’s should be allowed and where they shouldn’t be allowed. He said the closer to the beach you get, the likely you are to see VRD’s allowed. But at the same time, it depends on what part of town you’re in and the character of a particular neighborhood. The maps clearly shows where VRD’s are welcome and where they are not welcome. Sort of like “yes” and “no” areas. He said in “no” areas where VRD’s already exist, when the owner ceases to use the house as a VRD, the VRD designation dies. Or if the owner of the VRD passes away, the VRD designation ends either immediately or is extended for one year if the property is booked that far ahead with customers. Birke said family VRD’s that are passed from parents to grown children only prolong the stress on the neighbors and others who find VRD’s troublesome in that they don’t blend in well with their surroundings.

As for VRD policies for the soon-to-be-annexed Roads End area, Birke said dealing with the situation there is a little tricky due to the controversial nature of the annexation. “But suffice it to say,” he said, “they want things left pretty much as they are when it comes to VRD’s.”

At the end of his nearly two hour report, Birke made it clear that VRD’s can be a valuable economic asset to the community. But they have to be owned and operated by those who respect their neighborhoods and run their VRD’s like good neighbors. He re-emphasized that rules should be clear, enforceable and when fines are levied they have to hurt. “Consistency is the key,” he said. “Nothing else will work in the long run.”

Mayor Dick Anderson and the council thanked Birke for the hard work he and his students performed to help develop solutions for the town’s VRD issues. Anderson said the next step will be for city staff to develop a draft city ordinance for regulating VRD’s and send it to the city planning commission for review and public hearings. When the planning commission adopts a version of the ordinance that they think is worthy of adoption, that version will be forward to the city council for their review, public hearings and final action. But all admitted that whatever is adopted, the ordinance is likely to be modified over the years as Lincoln City gets more and more proficient at regulating VRD’s.

To see the full VRD Study and all documents click here.

Newport City Council tentatively approves Vacation Rental Dwellings in single family neighborhoods despite strong protests

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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.

Taking another step toward “re-examining” VRD’s in Lincoln City

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Oct 112011

Vacation Rental Dwelling, Lincoln City

One of the longest running debates in Lincoln City has been what to do, if anything, about the huge number of Vacation Rental Dwellings (VRD’s) in the city and how to soften their effects on the neighborhoods they operate in. The argument on one side is that they provide a “home-away-from-home” vacation spot for families who need more room that what is offered in a typical hotel or motel setting. The other side comes from VRD neighbors who complain that VRD’s are frequently rented by rabble rowzers who throw noisy all night parties and who scatter garbage and litter around the neighborhood, some even parking on neighboring lawns. Add to the mix that the city anticipates annexing the entire Roads End area to the north with it’s myriad of VRD’s and there is a great likelihood that the debate will only grow louder.

The Lincoln City City Council Monday night moved ahead with plans to hire a consultant with knowledge and insight into the Oregon Coast’s VRD dilemma, which has been addressed by as many plans as there are zip codes. Several VRD associations have paraded before the council over the past month or two, all imploring the council to “not pick on” VRD’s because of “a few bad apples.” Three representatives of various VRD associations appeared before the council Monday night exhorting the councilors to hire a candidate that gives reasonable weight to the opinions of VRD owners who have invested heavily in the economy of Lincoln City and who have a very large stake in the outcome of any regulatory changes that might be envisioned. Some even went so far as to suggest that each side in the debate be given adequate representation to maintain balance in the regulatory review process. However, City Manager David Hawker and Mayor Dick Anderson chimed in that the consultant’s job is not to referee warring factions but rather to listen to all sides and then recommend to the city council what regulatory changes may be warranted.

The council authorized Hawker to issue a request for proposals from anyone or any agency that might want to tackle the issue of VRD’s in a city that has a lot of them; perhaps more per square foot than any other city on the coast and again, about to get more with Roads End coming into the city. Mayor Dick Anderson says whatever changes are eventually adopted, it’ll take the better part of a year to enter them into the city code.

Do you mind vacation rental homes being in your neighborhood? Want to have a say about it? Read on…

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Aug 312011

Provided by Newport Planning Commission

Newport residents are invited to an evening workshop with the City of Newport Planning Commission to learn about how the City regulates vacation rentals and bed and breakfast establishments, and changes it is considering in order to update those rules. The workshop will be held Monday, September 12the in the Council Chambers at Newport City Hall, 169 SW Coast Hwy, Newport, at 6:30 p.m.

Because the City of Newport’s existing rules for vacation rentals and bed and breakfast establishments are confusing and difficult to interpret and enforce, the Planning Commission established an informal work group of community volunteers to research the issues and develop recommendations. Those recommendations will be presented during this workshop covering aspects like where they should be located, policed, taxed, and managed. The meeting will start with a brief presentation, followed by a breakout session with individual Planning Commission members where the public can provide comments on the proposal.

The changes recommended by the group can be viewed on the City of Newport’s website by going to the Community Development Department page by clicking here. For more information, contact Derrick Tokos, City of Newport Community Development Director, at 541-574-0626 or

Although dared not to, Lincoln City warns Vacation Rental Dwelling owners about possible changes in city codes.

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Jun 302011

VRD in Lincoln City

A very long festering argument between those who live in Lincoln City full time versus those who rent out their second homes to vacationers (VRD’s) has hit another noise level. The City Council has placed an announcement on the city’s website that some interpret as a “VRD Owners Beware” sign that VRD’s are under attack and because of that VRD home values will fall and VRD home sales will plummet. The city council denies anything of the sort is going on, only that they want VRD owners or prospective owners to know that changes to city VRD codes are in the works for the next six months. They say they’re just being transparent and fair to anyone in the VRD industry.

Lincoln City, by virtue of its easy reach of daytrippers from Portland, has a very high rate of homes that are owned by out-of town-Oregonians who rent their properties just like they were bed-and-breakfast or even weekly rentals. And because of the large percentage of these “VRD’s” scattered about the city, also scattered have come complaints by year-round residents that a substantial number of VRD renters make too much noise, especially late at night, and leave the area full of litter and overflowing garbage cans that sit on the streets for several days awaiting pick-up. Many have characterized such situations as literally losing the peaceful enjoyment of their own property and near destruction of their neighborhood.

However, at least a couple of VRD owner associations have come forward with explanations for the problem, suggesting it’s caused by a few bad property management agencies who don’t really care who they rent to just as long as they get their money and the owners get their’s too.

This has been going on for years. And the city council appears poised to do something about it. But while they’re exploring changes to the town’s VRD rules, they put up a notice on the city’s website and at city hall that informs VRD owners, or prospective owners, that change is in the wind. The notice doesn’t indicate what kind of changes but only that the study process will take about six months.

At least one VRD homeowner’s association told the city council recently that the council is abusing a “cash cow” for the town’s treasury, outlining the millions every year that VRD renters bring to Lincoln City’s tourism economy. The association warned the council that the notice could drive down VRD property values or outright kill sales or purchasing deals already in process. They vowed to make a list of such occurrences to city hall as proof that dickering with the VRD ordinance is bad for business and bad for the city.

The city council is hiring a VRD consultant in an effort to assess Lincoln City’s Vacation Rental Dwelling situation and what can be done to better manage it whether through limiting the numbers of units or available times that such dwellings could be legally rented. Under most VRD ordinances, VRD’s are supposed to be rented only as an “accessory use,” rather than a primary use; otherwise you’d have mini-hotels and motels operating in the middle of traditional residential areas, which is what many neighbors contend is, in fact, going on. These and other aspects of the VRD industry will be examined over the next half-year which will also include examining VRD code enforcement and penalties for violations.

But VRD supporters contend that VRD “problem renters” are the rare exception and that it’s not fair to paint all VRD owners as irresponsible or uncaring.

Big pro-VRD crowd shows up at Lincoln City City Council. Council caves on any idea of a “VRD freeze.”

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Jun 142011

Vacation Residential Dwelling
Lincoln City

A big crowd of Vacation Residential Dwelling supporters showed up at the Lincoln City City Council Monday night to make it clear, they wanted no talk of any moratorium or permitting freeze on Vacation Residential Dwellings. Although admitting that some VRD owners don’t carefully screen or police those who rent their homes, that’s no reason to punish the vast majority of those who do. They told the council that the VRD market is big in Lincoln City and so are the tax revenues the city enjoys from it. Millions of dollars a year, they claimed. Then there is the issue of jobs; from remodeling and repair construction to housekeepers, carpeting, furniture and appliance stores, they all rely on VRD’s. Others extolled the unique draw for those who want to vacation in a house, rather than a hotel or motel room. Especially for family reunions that don’t want to be scattered around town. All said they have had little or no trouble with their neighbors.

However, one gentleman got up and said that there are many Lincoln City residents who dislike the intrusion of VRD’s into their neighborhoods. He said they can be disruptive and ruin the quiet enjoyment of their homes and outdoors with noise. Others have frequently listed problems of loud music, fugitive garbage, overflowing parking problems and more.

The council reminded the audience that a proposed freeze on new VRD permits doesn’t meant that more won’t be approved eventually. Mayor Dick Anderson said he just wanted something on the books to be a “caution sign” for those contemplating establishing new VRD’s while the council re-evaluates the issue. He contended that such a freeze might put off new permits for only a few months. But City Attorney Joan Kelsey and the town’s community development director said it would take up to three months alone just to properly launch the freeze.

Newly sworn in City Councilor Roger Sprague, now on his fourth city council term, suggested that there had to be a better way than to impose a freeze. He asked, “Why not just move ahead with the VRD study? It won’t take that long.” The rest of the council nodded their heads in agreement. The motion to drop the freeze was seconded. The vote was unanimous. No freeze.

Mayor Anderson turned to City Attorney Joan Kelsey and lamented he didn’t want anyone building a VRD or applying for a VRD license to get blind-sided if the council changes the city’s VRD rules and regulations. Ms. Kelsey assured Mayor Anderson that she could develop the proper language to alert potential VRD applicants that changes may be in the wind. She added a notice could be posted on the city’s website and at the Community Development Department where permit applications are made and issued.

Mayor Anderson told after the meeting that it only takes a few to spoil it for the many, but added that enforcement of existing rules and regulations is complicated by current city codes and enforcement procedures. “That’s why we need a comprehensive VRD study, with good data and enforceable legal provisions,” he said.

The city expects to hire a Vacation Residential Dwelling expert this year to guide the city through complex issues and muddy waters that surround VRD’s and how best to regulate them.

Lincoln City VRD issue about to crank up again…

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May 092011

Lincoln City

Lincoln City Mayor Dick Anderson Monday night convinced the council that he and City Manager Dave Hawker should put together a plan to solve the town’s Vacation Rental Dwelling problem once and for all. Once the plan is developed, the council would then supposedly vote with him to hire a “true professional” with experience in bringing civic feuds to a merciful end.

Shortly after being elected mayor, Anderson said he wanted to tackle the issue of VRD’s and try to heal the town. Everyone agrees that half of Lincoln City finds little wrong with VRD’s while the other half would outlaw them tomorrow. Opponents hate the fact that many VRD’s are run like single-family Spring Break Party Houses that make lots of noise, leave trash all over the place, park cars and RV’s everywhere and generally make year-round residents miserable. Although there are requirements in city law that require careful monitoring of VRD operations, many residents complain enforcement is ineffective.

VRD supporters and fence-sitters alike contend that VRD’s are good for the economy because visitors stay multiple days, buy groceries and beer as well as go out to restaurants and take in the sights. During tonight’s city council meeting several VRD owners claimed that 90% of the problem is with the management companies that run them on behalf of their owners. They said if the management companies are held accountable most of the problems would evaporate.

Mayor Anderson got the council to agree that he and City Manager David Hawker will create an approach to solving the town’s VRD dilemma. They said they will draw up a request for proposals that seek to determine who should lead Lincoln City out of it’s VRD morass. The RFP and other criteria for selecting such a person would be reviewed by the council and then put on the market. The council would eventually hire the consultant. Anderson said he believes “the answers lie within our community. We need to drop all the biases and let a third party guide discussions toward alternative ways of looking at the situation.”

However, a couple of city councilors expressed concern about the costs and how that consultant would interact and create work for city staff in conducting public meetings, drawing up alternatives and preparing a final set of recommendations to the city council whose job it would be to put it all into city law. Mayor Anderson commented that it will certainly prove to be a long tough process but with a solution at the end that most of the town can support.

So we’ll see what Mr. Hawker and Mayor Anderson come up with.

City Council struggles to sort out “vacation rental” room taxes and how it charges for a business license

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Oct 112010

An often heard saying around any major organization like a city or big company that tries to figure out what’s causing a hiccup in their operations is when somebody asks, “Well, where did THAT come from? And who put it there? Another common question, “Who forgot to make sure all the bases were covered?”

The city of Newport is having one of those very moments as it tries to figure out how room taxes on hotel and motel rooms may not be efficiently collected from a myriad of “vacation rental” homes and condos throughout the community. City staff is asking the council to agree that if walks like a vacation rental, quacks like a vacation rental and lays eggs like a vacation rental, IT’S A VACATION RENTAL! Continue reading »