Lincoln City takes strong step toward more economic development in business sector, saying a “warm up” goodbye to David Hawker, raising rates at the recreation center, and what may be the semi-final last word on VRDs
Right off the top, City Manager David Hawker said they’re still negotiating with THE finalist who will take his job next year. So the grand unveiling of the new city manager for Lincoln City is two weeks away.
New traction for economic development in Lincoln City?
Lincoln City City Councilors Monday night stuck their collective toe in the waters of pumping up the town’s economy. Urban Renewal Director Kurt Olsen said there has always been a lot of talk about hiring a director of economic development but there were also concerns about the effectiveness of such a position which may not have enough resources, both money and staff, to make the investment pay off.
Enter Dave Price – former owner of Oregon Coast Today and now head honcho at the Small Business Development Center based at Oregon Coast Community College. Price told the council that his office is prepared to help provide office and meeting space for a new director if they’d give the director’s job a two year funding run. Two years would give him or her time to get oriented, build relationships with those who want to grow Lincoln City’s economy and make the operation totally self-supporting by aligning with other already established business groups like Bay Area Merchants Association, Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Business Association, etc.
The city council thought the idea was good enough to give it a two year endorsement but they first want more details on the exact relationships with the collaborative business groups – which ones are going to cooperate and how. Financial where-with-all would be coming out of the city’s urban renewal funds aimed at economic development. Price and Olsen will bring the matter back at a later council meeting once that information is available. At that point the council will make up its mind. With changes in the city council’s make up at the end of the year it doesn’t give Price and Olsen much time to gather that info. If it’s available after the first of the year, the new city council will be making that decision.
Thank you Mr. Hawker…
The council also set aside some time to lavish praise on the tenure of outgoing City Manager David Hawker. Councilors said mostly they enjoyed working with him to keep the city moving forward on major sewer and water issues, an effort that continues to this day. They also lauded his professionalism and squeaky clean ethics and the fact that although he’ll step down at the beginning of next year, he’ll stick around to help the new city manager ease into what is a very big job.
A number of councilors noted their earlier service on the council, recalling their initial dealings with Hawker, noting his tireless work ethic and how his construction industry experience saved the city a lot of money on several projects. Several councilors pointed out that during Hawker’s tenure that neighboring Newport went through three or four city managers.
Councilors also praised Hawker for his keen eye on a good deal called The Villages – prime development property at the north end of town complete with the coveted Knoll atop the hill. While some residents have decried the purchase – some $2.5 million – as a waste of taxpayer’s money, councilors praised the “fire sale” of the property which will net the city far more than the purchase price while selling the property in pieces to various developers who will surely get the word from the city what kind of quality development they envision for the area. As for The Knoll on top, that is to remain undeveloped except as a place where people can enjoy panoramic views of the city below and of the Oregon coastline reaching clear to the south horizon.
Councilor Henry Quandt said the city manager’s post is a thankless job. He thanked Hawker for doing it well. Councilor Gordon Eggleton said they often disagreed on some things but he always left the disagreement in the office and never mentioned it outside. Councilor Chester Noreikis praised Hawker as a hard working public servant who was always fair minded. Noreikis said he appreciated the municipal education and the free tuition that went with it.
Hawker expressed gratitude for all the kind words, summing everything up with the phrase, “It’s been a ride.” He said relations with all the councils and the public have been almost always civil, with some infrequent exceptions. He said he’s leaving Lincoln City a better place with stronger utility infrastructure, upgraded parks and recreation facilities among other things. He told the council that when he first got the job he thought he’d last maybe six years, but 15 years later he said “it turned into more.”
Rates going up at the city recreation center in an effort to further lower city subsidy
It’s been a couple of years since the last set of rate hikes for people using the city recreation center and physical fitness area. Two years ago the rate hike was substantial since user rates at that time were quite a bit below similar facilities in Astoria, Seaside, Newport and Woodburn. Those facilities have since raised their rates higher. So it’s time again, said Hawker and Community Center Director Gail Kimberling, to raise rates again by as much as 5 to 10%. Kimberling told the council she’d come back after the first of the year with a proposed list of rate increases for certain ticket packages and user groups. Hawker said the city needs to reduce the amount of subsidies the taxpayers provide to keep rates reasonable. He said a slight subsidy is okay but the recreation center rates are still far too low.
The Vacation Rental Dwellings (VRDs) battle winds down – final regulations approved. Some expect lawsuits against the city.
The really long slog through study groups, public hearings and ordinance wordsmithing are technically over – for now. But there are a lot of vacation property owners who are NOT HAPPY with the way those regulations turned out. Several VRD owners testified during “public comment” spots on the meeting agenda that they think the entire matter was mishandled and asked the council to postpone final action until “later.” A couple said the delay should be long enough for the community to learn when the coveted outright permitted “VR” zones would be finalized. Parts of the new regulation package won’t go into effect until July 1st so there may be time for them to find out.
The laborious study of the problem began some years back when it was getting quite obvious that many homeowners were thumbing their noses at city regulations as to where and how VRDs could be established. Banks even loaned money on VRDs without checking to see if properties were even in the right areas and met the regulatory requirements which included the owner still having to live there for a certain time of the year.
So the banks were over-lending and the city was under-checking for violations of established rules. And violations were everywhere. Meanwhile, the neighbors began loudly protesting the “demise” of their quiet neighborhoods caused by VRDs and their loud parties, destroyed landscaping, trash-strewn homes and cars and SUVs parked all over, often choking streets in the process.
The state Land Conservation and Development Department took note of all that and pressured the city to do something about it. The fact that there is a marked shortage of housing for lower income families also entered the picture – LCD inferring that the city wasn’t living up to the housing element within its state approve general land use plan. So the squeeze on City Hall was on.
What the council approved Monday night was complicated. It appeared that it was willing to allow already existing VRDs to stay put, but slapped a limit on the number of nights they could be rented. In some cases limited to 30 days a year, in others 180. There was also a category of VRDs that are located in commercial zones that have no limit.
For those who want to challenge the city on whether they ought to be grandfathered in, the council agreed to give them a hearing, but in so doing they roll the dice on where they end up.
A redesigned VRD map for the city is currently being formulated by the planning department.
Throughout the process the city council took a lot of criticism and outright hostility from homeowners, many from out of town, accusing the council of shooting the golden calf of tourism in a town whose life’s blood is tourism revenue. But the city said it must comply with state law which says that unless specifically zoned for vacation rentals the owners have to live in those homes most of the time – and of course, they don’t – most of them live in Portland and the valley. The owners let vacation home management firms do the day to day maintenance and tenant bookings – some with closer scrutiny than others. Hence the complaints from full time, year round residents – the “other” homeowners. And with over 500 VRDs in a small town like Lincoln City, a lot of those “other” homeowners complain loudly. A recent citizen survey of voters revealed that over 60% of respondents want tighter controls on VRDs. Well, now they’ve got it.
The city expects to be sued. They’ve got a war chest of funds sitting in an account ready for the next chapter in this very long saga. The city will maintain that they are simply back to enforcing the law, while others will say they are being denied the rightful use of their property.