Lincoln City City Councilors took another drubbing from an angry group of Vacation Rental Dwelling (VRD) owners and managers this week. Some seemed ready to head to the courthouse in Newport to file suit against the city in an effort to stop enactment of the new VRD regulations.
City Attorney Richard Appicello outlined to the council and to the crowd that there are three new regulations aimed at softening the impact that VRDs have on established neighborhoods. Although they are very detailed, and for some not easy to understand, Appicello’s main message was that many neighbors have complained about the growing scale and intrusiveness that VRDs are making on them, forever changing the character of their neighborhoods and dramatically reducing their enjoyment of their homes due to garbage, noise and parking problems.
Appicello returned repeatedly to Lincoln City’s predicament – that there are state land use laws, goals and policies that must be followed – among them: providing a good mix of housing for young families all the way up to retirees. But if the whole town continues to fill up with VRDs those goals cannot be met, implying that the city would be found out of compliance with state law.
Appicello also said that many homes that started out as limited or part-time vacation rentals, with their owners occupying them the rest of the time, are now primarily vacation rentals.
Appicello said the three vacation ordinances being proposed allows a large number of current vacation rentals to go on operating as usual. Another component allows others to continue as usual, but limiting their rentals to 180 nights out of the year. City Manager David Hawker chimed in saying he would be very surprised if many VRDS in that category rent that many nights a year, anyway. However, a stickler in the city’s compromise is that while many VRDs could be operated by their owners for the foreseeable future, when they’re sold or transferred to a family member, the VRD designation would be stripped away. But the new owner could reapply for VRD status based on standards in effect at the time of the transfer or sale.
The third group would be a small number who think they have a vested right to continue renting their homes and would have to prove their case.
The audience was unconvinced. Some broke down in tears, others simply got angry and threatened legal action, while others accused the council of doing everything they could to destroy the town which is now more reliant than ever on tourism – not logging or fishing – tourism.
Toward the end of the meeting, the council agreed to keep the written record open for another week – until noon, September 24th. Then the council will try to reach some sort of a consensus on October 13th as to what ordinances the city must pass to better manage VRDs and to come into closer compliance with state law that requires cities and towns to be places where people live and others visit, but not so much that visitors overwhelm the character, culture and pleasant liveability of local neighborhoods.
Councilor Roger Sprague described the council’s dilemma pretty well when he remarked that over the years previous city councils did not effectively watchdog what amounted to unintended growth of VRDs. Now that many of them are out of compliance with city codes which mandate they be used only for occasional use when the owner’s aren’t home, it’s now hard to backtrack in order to meet the state approved city master plan and goals for adequate housing for all age groups.