Lincoln City’s continuing regulatory dilemma about what to do about the growth of vacation rentals in the city had more controversy heaped on it Monday night. City Manager Ron Chandler reported to his city council that after a series of vacation rental town hall meetings with the citizens of Lincoln City he learned that the town remains just about as split as it was nearly five years ago when the issue of vacation rentals first came up. He said some folks want to put vacation rentals (VRs) anywhere they want and operate them as many days as they want, while many permanent residents want fewer VRs across the board. But if that’s not possible, they want tighter restrictions on any new VR applications – especially on the total number of days a year they can be rented.
On that very topic, City Attorney Richard Appicello laid out the law as well as possible legal strategies the city might use to moderate the impacts that new VRs might pose. He downplayed mandating a limit on the specific number of days per year new VRs can operate. He said City Planning Director Richard Townsend has a good approach that the council might examine which involves relying on current state law on reviewing vacation rental applications. Under state law the use of VRs by others, besides the owner, are to be “incidental and subordinate” to the overall use of the home. Townsend said that an analysis of what is incidental and subordinate as revealed in a number of state laws and policies leads him to believe that 25% of the year for VR rentals would be a legally defensible upper limit – or 90 days a year. It requires no change in city ordinances and simply points to state laws and policies already on the books. Townsend said if the number of rental nights gets too high, the VR stops being a private home and becomes, in the eyes of the law, a commercial business which, by definition, generally doesn’t belong in a residential zoned part of town.
Chandler went on to tell the council that from those recent meetings, he heard many townspeople complain that the city doesn’t do nearly enough to enforce violations of excessive noise, trash and congested parking, shoddy landscaping, and more. Chandler asked the council “Why is it illegal for VR vacationers to park their vehicles on the street, while regular residents can? The council told Chandler to look into that. The council also asked Chandler to investigate how long should a vacation rental stay in business after the death of its owner to honor the vacation bookings of those who have made reservations. The idea of a year was tossed about. Chandler said he and his staff would look into that.
Also, Chandler was told to explore the idea that a vacation rental license goes with the person – not with the house. And that a vacation rental and its license is not something that qualifies in a surviving child’s inheritance. The license is personal – not related to any particular piece of real estate.
So Chandler will go over these and a number of other aspects of the vacation rental issue. An over four year odyssey of trying to come up with a workable management plan for vacation rentals was brought to an abrupt end last election when the town voted to oust two vacation rental laws recently enacted by the city council. So the council is back to square one – appearing to be falling back on state laws – laws that don’t look at VRs as commercial enterprises, but a money maker for only a part of the year, rather than year round. Commercial VRs in commercial areas of town are allowed to go year round – but not VRs in residential neighborhoods.
So we’ll see what City Manager Ron Chandler comes up with.