WEATHER IN LINCOLN COUNTY

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More vacation rentals approved, a slap-down on a franchise fee increase and dreaming out loud about the city pool.

103 newly approved VR zoned lots at Olivia Beach.

103 newly approved VR zoned lots at Olivia Beach.

More vacation rentals tentatively approved by Lincoln City City Council

The Lincoln City City Council finally voted unanimously on a vacation rental project they liked. They placed 103 housing lots into a new vacation rental zone adjacent to Olivia Beach, the second phase of the original vacation rentals project built earlier. And like the first, the newly planned community will be policed by a home owner’s association with covenants, conditions and restrictions added to it which uphold the vacation rental properties to high standards of use. That means tight controls on noise, trash and parking. The regulations are strict – sort of like having their own police department. These kinds of binding rules don’t apply to vacation rentals in single family neighborhoods or commercial zones. That’s what the council seemed the most pleased with. It’s been widely, if not painfully obvious to councilors that it’s when you allow a vacation rental in the middle of an otherwise quiet, peaceful and pleasant neighborhood that you tend to have recurring problems. That issue has yet to be settled.

So with the approval of the new zoning plan, city staff will bring back the final order for the city council to formally approve later this month. After the new zoning takes effect it will increase the size of what the council heard was the creation of an upscale vacation area of Lincoln City, that allows public access to the beach below it, that will police itself and its homeowners in a way that other areas of town haven’t been able to. At least not to a level that many neighbors say is tolerable. To that end the city has hired a new full time code enforcement officer and has deputized all Lincoln City Police Officers as official code enforcement officials.

It’s long been said that not enough punishment has been inflicted on neglectful vacation rental owners. It’s also been said, at many workshops and council meetings, that a great many of these vacation rental owners live in Portland, Salem and Eugene, and use their Lincoln City vacation rentals much like an ATM machine – renting their properties well beyond the number of nights that are allowed under the city’s “accessory use ordinance.” That ordinance requires that a vacation rental owner limit their room nights to 90 a year if they’re located in a regular single family neighborhood.

After the council tentatively approved the additional 103 Olivia Beach lots to qualify for vacation rental zoning, Mayor Don Williams again advocated that the “accessory use” law on the books should be repealed which would open the door to unrestricted vacation rental growth throughout Lincoln City. Mayor Williams has urged his fellow councilors several times to let the free market determine how many vacation rentals Lincoln City should have. Williams has stated, “I can tell you that there is a limit on the number of vacation rentals Lincoln City ought to have. When the vacation rental market is saturated, new applications stop coming in. That’s the limit. The problem fixes itself.”

Thus far a majority of the council has not agreed.

Again, approval of the VR zone for the additional 103 vacation rental lots at Olivia Beach will come back to council for final adoption at their next meeting.

Photo courtesy Aquatic Development Group

Photo courtesy Aquatic Development Group

A water feature at the Lincoln City Pool?

City Councilors Monday night decided to throw some more money into the pot for consultants to determine whether a major upgrade to the municipal pool might be worthwhile. City planner Debra Nicholson said part of staff discussions about an upgrade to the city parks plan could include adding something to the pool. Nicholson remarked that a wave machine, a lazy river feature or some other interactive activity with water might be a big draw, not only for locals, but also for tourist families with water-loving kids. The question rose about whether the extra tourist draw at the pool would eventually pay for the water feature.

The council directed Nicholson to explore the option with consultants who are helping to update the city’s parks and recreation plan.

You can lead a council to revenue but you can’t make’em tax

And finally, the city council had a chance to raise the franchise fee on Pacific Power which would be passed-through to the average power customer at only a couple of dollars a month. Councilor Roger Sprague remarked all those two dollar revenue bumps would help pump up the city’s stretched road maintenance fund. Councilor Kip Ward and others worried about senior members of the community who are already financially stretched without a hike in their electric bill.

City Councilor John Anderson piped up saying that overall city revenues are running ahead of earlier estimates mainly from property taxes from the Roads End area along with higher tourism room tax collections. Anderson also added that urban renewal funds are also pretty healthy. Another councilor observed that the city has a huge land “bank” called The Villages. Turning that real estate bargain into a lot of cash is nearly money in the bank already. Anderson recommended that the council hold off on raising the franchise fee until the city gets a better picture of its revenue situation. The rest of the council agreed by a unanimous vote. Councilor Anderson also noted that the city can come back to the franchise fee issue any time it deems appropriate.

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