A group of avid vacation home rental supporters have filed a petition to have the voters of Lincoln City overturn two recently passed laws that seek to restrict the growth of the Vacation Rental Dwelling industry in the city.
Supporters of the restrictions and the city council contend that vacation rental dwellings have squeezed the housing market for permanent city residents and that long term renters and full time home owners are having their “neighborhood rights” taken away by out-of-towners who use their VRD properties as ATM machines at great expense to the livability of their neighborhoods.
Supporters of VRDs contend VRDs are compatible with quality neighborhoods but that city enforcement of existing VRD rules has been lax and that some VRD management agencies have not been as strict as they need to be in terms of who they rent properties to. They also contend that the VRD industry employs hundreds of workers in not only managing VRDs but maintaining them. They say Lincoln City relies on tourism for its economic bread and butter. They contend that “over-regulation” of the industry works against the best interest of the town.
Voter referendum petitioner Jack Skipper says a series of public meetings with a council-appointed “consensus group” offered remedies that the council ignored. He said the new regulations were enacted before the vacation rental zones (VR Zones) were even put on any official city map. Skipper said “How can they (the city) adopt final regulations when they don’t even provide final maps on where VRDs will be allowed as a “matter of right.”
The City Council has heard all these arguments before but frames the disagreement quite differently. The council says that VRD development has grown over the past ten years in parts of town where it should never have happened. The city was, as some have described, “less than vigilant” in controlling VRD growth that brings excessive noise, fugitive trash and sprawling “make-it-up-as-you-go” parking. The city also contends that vacation rental dwellings, under state law, must be used only in a way that is, what’s called, an “accessory use” – a use that is subordinate to the primary use of being someone’s permanent residence. Many VRD owners have admitted to the city council that they bought homes in Lincoln City strictly as an income property that someday they “may” move in to. The city attorney advised the council that such an arrangement does not meet the requirements of state law as to what constitutes a legal vacation rental dwelling. In short, the home must be somebody’s capital “H” home that is rented out part of the year.
In an effort to get themselves out of a very tough spot, the city council offered what might be called a devil’s compromise. The council is 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 nights a year, in others 180. But tied to that provision, when the properties change hands, they go back to being regular single family homes, that is, the VRD designation evaporates. There was also a category of VRDs that are located in commercial zones that will 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 the VRD owners roll the dice on what status they’re finally given.
Back to our voter referendum. The VRD supporters have filed a petition with the Lincoln City Clerk-Recorder that will put the just-adopted city council rules on the March ballot. VRD supporters’ Jack Skipper says they’re out collecting the 434 voter signatures to put the issue on the March ballot. All they need is 50% plus one vote to invalidate the new city regulations. A recent city-sponsored survey on a number of city issues, including VRDs, would indicate that a solid majority of Lincoln City registered voters want tighter restrictions on what they see as “intrusive invaders” of their neighborhoods. But Skipper contends that the questions on the survey were carefully written in a way to get the desired answers – more regulations.
Should Skipper’s group succeed in getting the issue on the March ballot, and should it fail, Skipper says they’re not sure what the next step might be. They are consulting a number of options. He politely declined to reveal what they might be.
So we await to see if they collect enough voter signatures to have the issue appear on the March ballot in Lincoln City.