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When does a quaint coastal town lose its identity and becomes a “vacation factory?”

Yachats Ken Gagne photo

Yachats
Ken Gagne photo

Yachats Mayor Ron Brean and his city council together asked the question at a special city council meeting Monday – What is a maximum number of vacation home rentals the town can handle without losing its identity – the essence of what makes it attractive in the first place?

As usual, there were townspeople who testified they want to preserve Yachats’ coastal village charm, with enough housing for families – real families with children. And you can’t have that if more and home homes are transformed into mini-hotels. And on the other side there were those who see Yachats as a charming coastal village that keeps their vacation home rentals full, that helps to keep the Yachats local economy healthy.

City Clerk Recorder Nancy Batchelder did a terrific job of recording the highlights of points of view that make compelling arguments on both sides – which will no doubt trigger even more debate.

Here’s Nancy’s notes:

CITY OF YACHATS
CITY COUNCIL MEETING 3 Civic Meeting Room, Yachats Commons
May 19, 2014
Special Meeting 10:00 A.M.
MINUTES

Mayor Ronald Brean called the Special meeting of the City Council to order at 10:00 a.m. in the Multipurpose Room at the Yachats Commons. Council members present: Greg Scott, Sandy 10 Dunn and Barbara Frye. Audience: 100 people.

I. Possible Transient Rental Restrictions and/or Limits

Brean briefly explained the various issues that the City Council has dealt with in the past and the steps that have been taken in the past to attempt to reduce the conflict.

Brean said that after in January, after continued discussions that had taken place over months the
City Council decided to do nothing more at that time. However, they decided that when the
number of transient rental licenses reached 125 they would open the discussion again. Today there are 130 and 4 pending applications.

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Candy Neville:
• Have owned a transient rental for 16 years on King Street and she has not heard of a
single complaint.
• As a homeowner, the value of her home will be reduced if the City Council decides to put a cap on the number of transient rentals.
• There are no schools, industry or large office complexes. So, the homes will only be sold to someone who does not need a job or a school.

Brean said that the City Council set the trigger number at 125 to discuss the issue – there is no official number for a cap. City Council has not made any decisions about a number or if to put a cap on the number.

Nathan Bernard:
• A business owner, but does not have any direct interest in the issue.
• Interested in protecting the character of the village, and to do that Yachats needs people living here full time.
• He is building a business that acknowledges and encourages the unique character of the
village and provides local food and goods.
• The town should continue to look like a village rather than a large city.

Mike Korgan:
• Only 43% of the homes in Yachats are owner-occupied.
• This is a second home community.
• People buy homes here to use as vacation homes and if they are not able to rent those
homes when they are using them, those homes will stand empty.
• Many towns market to the people who want to buy a vacation home to rent.
• Any cap on the number will kill the real estate market.
• Without tourism the community will die. While the Adobe may be the biggest employer in town, but the number of people employed by transient rentals cannot be far behind.

Gerald Stanley:
Here to say that the City Council has the right to set a number.
Eight years ago then Mayor, Sue Smith appointed him and Max Glenn to serve on the Lincoln County Housing Committee.
Yachats was the first to address the issue of affordable housing when Fisterra was built.
There are 26 children that participate in the Youth Program, and that would not be possible if there was no affordable housing.
If there is no cap is placed on the transient rentals, and therefore no affordable housing, Yachats could be in the same place it was 8 years ago – with no children, no young families that can afford to live here.

Wendy Snidow:
She turned her home into a transient rental and became a property manager in order to save her home and be able to stay in Yachats.
She has talked to many people who live here full time and none of them had any complaints about transient rentals.
She volunteered to serve on the Transient Rental Task Force and she believes the work that they did was important.

David Locke:
People come to Yachats to enjoy Yachats in addition to the ocean.
It is important to maintain the character of Yachats.

Scott said that when working on the Comprehensive Plan it became obvious that the character of the community means different things to different people and he would like to know what the character means.

Locke said that it is the combination of both the residents and the tourists that come here.

Michael Bonn:
Yachats should not be turned into a place like Seaside with carnivals and strange gift shops.
People come to Yachats because it is different than other seaside communities.

John Thornton:
Have lived on King Street for 21 years.
Yachats is different from other coastal communities – there is no open beach and there are other differences as well.

Michele Korgan:
Own a restaurant in town.
Has there been any information that documents the change in neighborhoods?
There are currently more things to do for kids and adults than there were when she first moved here, and she sees the growth of those activities and growth in the town correlates with the increase in the transient rentals.

Ron Spisso:
Has a transient rental house in town that rents for $400+ a night, but it sleeps 14 people so that is only $30 a night. That provides affordable housing.

• Is community just the 300+ registered voters that live here that are able to live here
because they have a pension, or because they were successful in a prior life?
• Or, is the community people like him that cannot afford to live here yet?
• At some point, the market will make the decision about the number of transient rentals in town.
• He would not be able to have the house unless he can rent it out.

Cliff Johnson, from Vacasa Vacation Rentals:
• The company he works for has seen this debate in many other cities and states.
• Cities that have over-restricted have found that it causes the rentals to go underground.
• He agrees that there are more services in town than there were three years ago, and he
believes that is because of the tourist industry.
• Putting a cap on the transient rentals would affect the housing market and values.
• The restrictions that Cannon Beach put in place are not fair and they are hard to enforce.

Tom Lauritzen:
• Providing a hard cap on the number of transient rentals is not good for Yachats.
• He would like the City Council to discuss what is a home and what is a business.
• When he looks at the average cost to own a home in Yachats is about $14,000 a year. So,
renting it 140 nights would cover that.
• Many of the homes here are rented more than that, and he believes that makes them a
business. There are zones in towns for businesses and the City Council has tools on the
books for granting a business license.

DJ Novgrod:
• Tourists do not only come here in the summer – tourists come here in the winter as well.
• The Real Estate business has been the pits in the past few years, and that will only be
made worse by the parking issue.
• Real Estate businesses perform a service to this town.

Ken Aebi:
• Member of the community for 16 years, but most of that time as a part-time resident.
• Many of the transient rentals are built like a small hotel and the regulations for those large homes should be more like hotel.

Prue Zimmerman:
• Believes that there should be a cap on transient rentals.
• Everyone has talked about the stress on the parking, water and sewer. But, nobody has
talked about the stress on the small group of volunteers that help put on the special events that tourists attend and make the town attractive to the visitors.

Joni Bicksler:
• While she was growing up on the east coast and later as an adult in California, she lived in tourist towns and she enjoyed meeting people from all over the world.
• She and husband decided to remodel the home they had purchased and make it into a B & B
• Trying to have a B & B became a war with the City.
• After having a B & B for many years, she was tired of running a B & B, but she wanted to continue to meet tourists so she started working at the Overleaf.
• She and her husband have said for years that the City should look at changing the zoning.

Jim Hueske
• He and his wife bought property many years ago, and he had a dream of what he wanted
to do with that property. City Council did not agree with that dream.
• So he purchased other property and has had a transient rental for many years, and many
of them are repeat customers.
• He always puts the City Newsletters in his rooms, and some of the tourists have expressed concerns about the proposed changes to parking and sidewalks.
• The increase in the number of transient rental license over the past few years are because of the economy. People were looking for ways to keep their homes.
• Guests that write in the guest book say they love Yachats – they don’t say they like just one thing or another – they love “Yachats” the way it is.

David Schlesinger:
• Had a difficult time selling his home and many of the people who looked at the house did
not want to buy the house because it was next door to a large house that had been a
transient rental with many problems.
• Now, they are trying to find a house to buy and they do not want to live close to another large house that is a transient rental.
• And, if you buy a house in an area that does not have many transient rentals that could
change at any time in the future if new owners decide to make their homes rentals.
• The increase in the number of transient rentals is no longer just a response to the economy and management companies are aggressively seeking homes to purchase to operate as
rentals.

Brean thanked everyone for their comments, saying that it was interesting to hear all of the various points of view.

Brean said that as the number of transient rentals continues to increase, at some point the community will change, and it will no longer be the community that everyone wants to live or visit.

Frye said that she has two rental houses close by and one of those used to belong to the same owner as the one that Schlesinger talked about. There were a lot of problems with that house day after day. It is different now with a new owner.

Frye said that whatever the City Council does should be done in a way to protect the property owners.

Dunn said that she is not sure where she stands on this issue, and that is because she changes her mind as she hears different opinions.

Dunn said that she had done a lot of research to find out what other cities have done hoping that one of those cities had found a solution. That is not the case and many people have actually said that Yachats has good regulations.

Yet, each time City Council makes a decision there are many people who don’t like that decision and then there is a room full of people at a meeting like this.

Scott said that the one topic that people come to City Council to speak on time and time again is transient rentals. However, many of the hot topics City Council hears about are related to visitors.

The City Council is not anti-business and nobody at the Council table will make any decision lightly.
Scott said that Yachats is the only city in the state that offers a free website presence to all businesses and transient rental.

Scott said that he is not prepared to make any decision today because he is tired. The City Council will make every effort to ensure the decision balances the needs of all the community.

Brean said that he is not prepared to make any decision at this time.

Brean said that he believes that there will come a time when there are too many transient rentals in town, and letting the market make the decision is not the way to arrive at that number.

Brean said the City Council is not ready to make any decision today. However, the Council wants the town to continue to be a vibrant community and a community where people want to live and volunteer and where people know that if they buy a home they will be able to sell it when the time comes.

The meeting was adjourned at 12:15 p.m.

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