Whither a tax on retail marijuana
Looks like the voters of Newport will get to vote on whether the city will levy a 3% tax on the sale of retail (some call it recreational) marijuana. That vote would come in November.
The council held a public hearing on the matter during which no one among the public spoke, so the issue was chewed on a little longer by the council. The councilors immediately launched into a discussion about where should the tax money go? Should it go to the city’s general fund where it could be spent on just about anything, or should it be aimed at police efforts to ensure only legal use of cannabis products prevails. Councilor Dean Sawyer, a retired Newport police officer said he would like to see some of those tax proceeds go to the police department for enforcement issues. Others wondered aloud whether something that is a pressing issue with the city should be funded rather than just dumping it into the general fund.
In the end, the council agreed that none of the proceeds from the 3% tax should be earmarked – that the tax revenue should be placed in the general fund and allow the city’s budget committee, and ultimately the city council to decide where and for what the tax revenues will be spent.
City Manager Spencer Nebel was instructed by the council to return at a future meeting with language for ballot measure language asking Newport voters whether the city should levy the marijuana tax.
Council ruminates over tightening regulations on Vacation Short Term Home Rentals
With most city councilors claiming “there isn’t a big problem with Vacation Home Rentals, so let’s not make any,” the council decided to take the slow lane on the issue for the next year to see how the growth in vacation rentals plays out.
Councilor Dean Sawyer observed that he hasn’t detected any major problems with vacation home rentals and that the number of complaints about them have been few and far between. Certainly nothing like Lincoln City. Councilor David Allen chimed in with similar thoughts adding that rumors of a possible moratorium on more vacation rentals won’t get his vote. He agreed with other councilors that the best way to address the issue is for the city to continue to study it, mainly through the city’s Visioning Committee and through advice from consultants that are expected to be hired within the year.
However, City Councilor Wendy Engler continued to point to what amounts to a gentrification of her native Nye Beach area as becoming more and more populated with vacation home rentals. She said possible new construction near the Performing Arts Center and elsewhere in the area will transform Nye Beach into a vacation-dominated theme rather than a distinct neighborhood, where people still know each other, can shop locally and enjoy a continued sense of “place.” She said disturbing trends continues to concern her head and the many people that work and live in the Nye Beach area.
Engler also brought up the nationwide problem of shrinking affordable housing which is very much in evidence on the Oregon Coast including Newport, and Nye Beach specifically. She said she wants the city to step back and take a realistic look at what’s happening in Newport and begin formulating controls on vacation rentals so they don’t rob Nye Beach and other distinctive neighborhoods of there uniqueness and certainly their affordability.
Engler said affordable housing is in such short supply that something has to be done about it. But by allowing more of Newport’s housing stock to be converted to vacation rentals, it will only make matters worse. Engler said the city needs a plan to keep Newport’s housing needs balanced. At that point City Manager Spencer Nebel said the matter needs to be carefully evaluated and then formulate talking points for a future city council meeting. But he added, the town doesn’t yet seem to have a vacation rental problem and there is time to consider a range of options which will be offered by the above consultant hiring search.
And that’s where they left it – for another meeting.