Newport City Council Punts VRD Moratorium Back to City Staff and…Getting Serious on the 2040 Vision!
The Newport City Council Monday night tried to trigger a moratorium on additional vacation rentals (VRDs) in Newport but kicked the issue back to city planning staff when the council couldn’t say which parts of Newport should be placed off limits for additional VRDs right down to street boundaries.
Councilors seem to agree that VRDs, which many call disruptive to normal neighborhood life, should be dispersed away from areas that neighbors claim are already over-run with VRDs, even though there may be no more than 175 VRDs within the entire city. Others say VRDs that aren’t registered with the city push that figure much higher.
One by one neighbors in the Nye and Agate Beach areas complained to the City Council what amounts to an invasion of their quiet, traditional neighborhoods by VRD renters that flood the streets and empty lots with cars and late night noise, trash and commotion. One resident said she came home one evening to find that somebody had walked into her house and helped himself to food in the refrigerator.
Others complained that VRDs that normally might hold 10 to 15 guests are often overrun with not only guests, but guests of guests, who are there for a wedding bringing a large number of vehicles that choke streets and park on adjacent properties. Some neighbors simply stated that a neighborhood with revolving doors doesn’t feel like a neighborhood anymore – like their “at home” feeling has been ripped out from under them.
But Councilor Dean Sawyer commented that when you add up all the VRDs in town, they make up just 1.6% of total dwellings in the city. He said many long-time residents who complain about VRDs don’t pick up the phone and report unruly behavior to the VRD owners or to the Newport Police Department. He said it would be much better if each VRD owner supplied their personal contact information to neighboring residents so neighbors don’t have to stew in their homes, angry about what’s going on outside. Councilor Sawyer added that noise, loud music or other unruly behavior should be reported to the police immediately. He said most neighbors don’t complain so there is no record of complaints at the police department and so no one at City Hall has a written record of VRD mismanagement.
At the end of all the discussions the council kicked the issue back to city staff and to the city planning commission to ponder the appropriateness of stopping any more VRDs from moving into the Nye and Agate Beach areas, as well as areas zoned for single family dwellings. The council decided that the planning commission, and a widely represented “advisory committee” to the planning commission, should draw specific boundaries for Nye and Agate Beach residential areas along with very specific boundaries for single family home zones that should be off limits to new VRDs. The process, filled with public meetings & hearings, is expected to take the better part of nine months to designate where additional VRDs would be welcomed, accompanied by enhanced VRD owner responsibility to tightly police their properties before the real police are required with the possibility that their VRD license could be revoked. There were also references to the city’s position that when a VRD is sold, its license is NOT part of the sale. The new owner will have to apply for a new license since no VRD license is forever.
The City Council also took the next step in putting some teeth in the recently adopted Newport Vision 2040 plan – an effort to align city and citizen resources to make Newport a better place to live. Some of the major goals of the plan include a serious commitment to affordable and work force housing. A tourism-based economy like Newport’s cannot survive without them. Also improvements to the Highway 101 and Highway 20 corridors, local and regional public transportation, integrated hiking and biking trails, open space in truly scenic natural areas, enhancing the town’s working waterfront, providing excellent hi-tech and scientific engineering in our middle schools, high schools and enjoying partnerships with institutions of higher learning, better access to health care, among many other community improvements.
To better support that vision, the city’s Planning Commission and the City Council will have a permanent Vision 2040 Citizens Advisory Committee looking over their shoulders to ensure that city government and future city councils stay on track with the 2040 goals – not only on those goals but to provide sensible course corrections depending on what the future brings. Such a Vision 2040 citizens committee (appointed by the city council) will draw volunteers who are expected to be passionate and excited about Newport’s future. Committee members will also help to ensure that future city councilors don’t stray too far from the basic vision of the 2040 outline – but at the same time, not arbitrarily dismissing new paradigm-shift opportunities not contemplated by the 2040 vision as understood in 2017.