The seemingly never ending saga of Lincoln City’s temptation to liberalize approval of new vacation rentals in just about every neighborhood was taken on again this week by the city council.
Stung by recent voter disapproval of new controls over the growth of vacation rentals, the council has been trying to develop a plan that allows more vacation rentals, which provides needed revenue to the city treasury (more room and property taxes), and generally boosting the town’s economy; and all the while not fouling the atmosphere of traditional single family neighborhoods.
During a city council workshop City Manager Ron Chandler sought direction from the council as to whether a limitation on rental nights a year should be placed on vacation rentals – or none at all. Or whether some areas of town (mostly east of Highway 101) should be allowed to add vacation rentals but be limited to just 30 rental nights a year.
Mayor Don Williams said he wants very few, if any, restrictions on rental nights and to let the free market determine how many should be allowed to operate in Lincoln City.
Some city councilors said that the main problem with vacation rentals is that many of them were started up without ever having gotten a license and the city didn’t do anything about it – and in so doing rogue VRDs produced late night noise, loud partying, indiscriminate parking, and trash left scattered about. Several councilors, including Wes Ryan claimed that the city hasn’t enforced its own city laws and that many VRDs have become nuisances in neighborhoods where they have cropped up. Councilors Ryan and Kip Ward said that some are run very poorly – but with adequate enforcement there would likely be far fewer complaints. Especially if excessive complaints qualifies to get a VRD shut down. But Chandler was quick to point out that whether more city code enforcement officers will be hired to crack down on VRD violators depends on other pressing city needs.
Other councilors favored using the town’s 9-1-1 dispatch center as a place to call if there’s a VRD problem. They said VRD renters violating city codes, need to be confronted quickly (or the owner or the management firm running them), not the next day or next week as is too frequently the case. And an official record needs to be kept on all VRDs to ensure that none begins to stick out like a bad apple or become so abrasive to the neighbors that its license really should be yanked.
Mayor Don Williams, himself a multiple VRD owner, said a better way would be for VRD owners to contract with a private security firm to patrol VRDs and be the ones to receive the complaint calls – not 9-1-1. He said complaining neighbors could call the security company’s dispatching service and in so doing solve problems without them being part of a public record.
Mayor Williams opined that families with young children tend to be better VRD renters, inferring that other kinds of VRD renters are less sensitive to others within earshot.
Parking problems were gone over again – Chandler suggesting that the city target vacant ground along with private and public parking lots to handle VRD overflow – and that VRD owners be allowed to stack vehicles in their driveways. Maybe even be allowed to park on lawns in some cases. Chandler was quick to add that acquiring land for additional parking for VRDs would be very expensive for the city.
The council also reviewed terminology dealing with “maximum occupancy” of VRDs. Some cities allow more occupants – others less – but the council seemed to want to follow Newport’s lead in the way it determines when occupancy is getting too high. Newport’s regulations were characterized by the council as a VRD having a maximum of 5 bedrooms an with a maximum occupancy of 16 people a night.
All of this talk (and lots more) was carefully written down by Chandler. He said he would report back to the city council with a draft list of new regulations aimed at solving Lincoln City’s ongoing VRD challenge. Chandler added that the city would then formally conduct a number of citizen town hall meetings to clearly outline and describe what the new rules would be and how they would be enforced. Chandler emphasized that it’s vital that all Lincoln City residents have the opportunity to receive clear and accurate information directly from the city rather than what the community was exposed to during last spring’s election when the former rules were voted down.