The echo of Tuesday night’s election results for vacation rentals (VRDs) in Lincoln City is starting to finally fade among single family home neighborhoods. The repeal of a few city regulations dealing with parking and landscaping, as well as expedited review of VRD applications in 30 days or less and the settlement offer of 180 nights for existing VRDs not in compliance, are now off the books.
What is left is the city’s attempt to create zones where VRDs are allowed, period. The council is trying to establish such areas in the northwest, northeast and southwest parts of Lincoln City. There may be more pockets besides those. They’re still working on it.
But what it leaves hanging out there, are many more VRDs that are being operated on the basis that they can be used as part-time vacation rentals when their owners are off traveling or vacationing themselves. But the maximum number of rental nights a year allowed is not well defined. It comes under the heading of “accessory use,” a use that is “incidental and subordinate” to the house’s primary use – that is – somebody’s permanent residence. One can imagine trying to have enough “VRD cops” patrolling the streets enforcing whatever standard the council comes up with. One thing that makes it even more convoluted is that under city law, city officials are not allowed to see the guest list. It’s called “confidential private information.” So how can the city figure out which VRD operators are obeying the rules about what’s “incidental and subordinate” use and who aren’t. And what about those who reach “the limit” but keep right on renting it out anyway and don’t report it?
It begs the question of enforcement. How will they catch those who are running illegal VRDs, which, by the way, takes business away from other VRD owners who are obeying the law?
It was said many times over the past three or so years by city officials that “The city doesn’t have the manpower to run around and be neighborhood cops. We rely on the basic honesty of the public.” That reasoning might not fly anymore. Since having greater VRD enforcement is caused by the presence of the VRD industry itself, might the city consider charging higher fees for a VRD license that would help pay for a greater portion of those enforcement costs. The city would still shoulder some of those costs because, after all, the city is collecting a sizable sum in room taxes from those vacation rentals, even from those who are not full time VRDs.
The months ahead will be quite revealing, to say the least.