Whether to tax recreational marijuana
Lincoln City City Councilors lined up Monday night to try their hand at taxing something that hasn’t even been legalized yet. They figured if many Oregon cities have already passed such a law, maybe there’s something in it for Lincoln City too.
The issue of course is whether to pass a law that allows the city to slap a sales tax on recreational marijuana sold within the city limits, that is IF recreational marijuana is approved by the voters next month. And according to at least a few polls, it appears to be a done deal.
City Attorney Richard Appicello told the council that under certain interpretations of state law, along with some case law made in court, any city or county that approves a sales tax provision prior to the approval of the recreational marijuana initiative, even though the approval carries with it a ban on a local sales tax on marijuana, it’s likely that the city sales tax provision would prevail.
City Councilor Roger Sprague said he’s still not in favor of the city having anything to do with marijuana because federal law calls it an illegal drug. Appicello chimed in saying that the city isn’t going against federal law because the initiative and the voters are changing how marijuana is treated in Oregon. He said the taxation issue is totally separate. Yet Sprague said he would vote against any sales tax issue dealing with marijuana.
Sprague’s position threw a monkey wrench into the city’s forward momentum of the proposal because the council would have to vote unanimously to approve the tax and Sprague was clearly not going to allow that to happen. So, the council told Appicello to draw up the sale tax proposal and bring it back to the council on the 27th when they will attempt a unanimous vote which would make it possible to enact the tax ordinance immediately. Sprague announced that he would be absent that day. Duly noting that development, Mayor Anderson said that although Sprague would not be there, councilor Wes Ryan would be, thereby making a unanimous vote possible and for the ordinance to take effect right away.
No tax rate is expected to be set – only a placeholder provision to establish a tax rate later. A rate of 10% was bantered about the council. Appicello predicted quite a court battle between major cities and the state over whether the sales tax provision will be allowed to take effect.
Keep the Coast Guard Chopper in Newport!
Mayor Anderson read a city proclamation in opposition to the U.S. Coast Guard’s plans to close down the Newport Coast Guard helicopter rescue operations. The Coast Guard is blaming budget problems for their decision. Mayor Anderson said the chopper is vital to the continued safety of not only Lincoln City residents but the 20,000 tourists that fill the town on major weekend holidays and many other times throughout the summer. The resolution being delivered to the Coast Guard echoes the opinions of thousands of central coast residents that the budget cuts will unacceptably reduce the level of safety and protection afforded residents and tourists along the central coast.
City survey of citizens touches on vacation rentals – majority want tighter restrictions
City Manager David Hawker reported to the city council that although a recent city survey of residents has not yet been fully tabulated, the trend is clear about how respondents feel about vacation home rentals. Hawker said out of all the surveys tabulated thus far, 739 respondents said they want vacation home rentals to be discouraged in Lincoln City while 453 respondents said they would like them encouraged. That’s roughly 62% wanting them discouraged. When asked if they prefer tighter regulations on them, 934 respondents said tighten the regulations while 504 said don’t tighten them – that’s a 65% to 35% margin among those who responded. Hawker implied that the town, as a whole, wants something done about the growth of vacation home rentals in Lincoln City. As for who those voters were, Hawker said that 679 owned their own home while 226 rented. That’s 75% of the respondents owning their own home.
Vacation Rental regulations may be headed for a final decision
After many, many months of public meetings, staff analysis and legal research, Lincoln City’s seemingly never-ending squabble over how the town can regain control over their vacation rental industry may finally be coming to a head. The Lincoln City Council told City Attorney Richard Appicello to cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s in formulating three new ordinances regulating vacation rentals to bring them back into some kind of compliance with state law on the town’s housing policies. Many neighbors around town had been complaining long and hard about the growth of vacation rentals bringing noise, trash and ragged landscaping – changing the feel and the character of their neighborhoods.
The city accepted some of the blame for being too lax over the years in enforcing its vacation rental industry but reminded everyone that under state law they had to do something to begin bringing the city back into compliance. It’s been said that many vacation rental owners took advantage of the lax enforcement and so now they don’t want to give up any income they’re making on their property.
To begin reigning in the numbers and extent of vacation rental use the city has proposed a couple of new ordinances that allows what it hopes is a tolerable meeting of the minds. If a VRD is in a commercial zone there is no limit on the number of nights it can be rented. If it comes to be in a designated Vacation Rental zone, also unlimited nights. However if an existing VRD is in a residential zone the number of rental nights will be limited to 180 nights a year. If a new VRD is applied for it will be allowed to be used as a vacation rental under what’s called a use that is incidental and subordinate to the main use as the owner’s vacation home. That’s not unlimited rental nights. If the owner of a new VRD applies for what’s called the expedited process, they’ll get a license right away for the right to rent it out for 30 nights a year.
Once the council approves the new rules at their next city council meeting, or the one after that, lawsuits are expected to fly and the city will have to defend its action in court, which will hear those who own vacation rentals claim the city is violating state property law as well as provisions of due process and equal protection under various U.S. Constitutional Amendments.
The city claims that VRDs grew out of control and now threaten the ability of the city to meet its state-mandated requirements to provide adequate housing to those who aren’t well off while still offering attractive options for tourists who visit Lincoln City. City officials claim that they’re honestly trying to reach regulatory common ground with VRD owners who they claim can still make a good return on their vacation rentals but maybe not as much as many owners want or think they deserve.
The city has set aside a considerable war chest for legal fees that will be racked up as it defends itself against what is expected to be quite an onslaught of lawsuits filed by an angry group of VRD owners. And there’s a lot of them.