On a 5 to 2 vote, the Lincoln City City Council decided to offer to buy the old Elks Building just north of the city’s Community and Recreation Center. The offer is $175,000, far below, we’re told, of what the Elks want for it.
City councilors reason that the building is old, worn out and suffers from a patch-work of what are largely home-made repairs and that it’s full of asbestos. Literally an old pile of hazardous materials that will be knocked down by whoever buys it and puts something new there. In short, the value of the land as if there was nothing on it.
Councilors Wes Ryan and Kip Ward said the city’s offer of $175,000 won’t be accepted by the national Elks organization. City Councilor Dick Anderson reasoned that it’s a start in the negotiations, not a final offer. The vote to proceed was 5 to 2, with Councilors Ryan and Ward voting no.
Then came the main event of the day as the council, in a workshop format (no decisions to be made), on how to get the vacation rental (VRDs) debate off of square one – again. Mayor Don Williams argued, in so many words, that the market place should dictate how vacation rentals are handled while the rest of the council wasn’t so sure that’s the way to go – Councilor Sprague reminding the council that livable neighborhoods are valuable too – a quality of life issue that should not be dismissed.
Staff offered ideas surrounding tougher enforcement of city rules on how VRDs are allowed and where they are allowed. There was talk of penalizing VRD owners who allow disruptive people to rent their VRD by putting such owners on a “three-strikes-and-you’re out” program. There were discussions on how to expand allowable parking – either by stacking cars deeper in driveways (as long as they don’t cover the sidewalk or stick out into the street) or by creating mini-parking lots near clusters of VRDs. Requiring a single VRD complaint “hot line” so police can go out and quell a disturbance, loud music, trash being scattered or vehicles parking willy nilly. The plan also called for more employees to police VRDs, although it appeared that one or two extra code enforcement-type employees might be all the city might need. But that issue was not settled.
There was also a lot of discussion about what the voters meant when they turned down the city’s recent approach to VRD regulation – designating exclusive VR zones and allowing pre-existing VRDs in residential zones to continue to operate but for fewer nights a year. Some councilors said they wondered if the voters really knew what they were voting for or against. It IS a complicated issue.
Mayor Williams remarked that what the city has been left with may require another public vote to clarify the true intent of the voters. He suggested that a ballot measure be crafted to suggest a thumbs up or down on what’s called ‘Accessory Use’ of a property which is currently on the books – use by an owner that considers the home his/her primary residence but rents it out “a part of the year” – vacation renting being seen as an “accessary use,” less than full time. Right now, that’s 90 rental nights a year. Mayor Williams said that idea ought to be thrown out completely. That remark drew a profound silence from one end of the council to the other.
In short, the council was left staring at exactly the same situation as the former city council was facing prior to putting a series of compromises on the ballot…compromises that went down in flames at the polls last May.
The council told staff to study everyone’s comments and to draw up a way forward for future discussions.