The Newport City Council was told Monday evening that the somewhat controversial volunteer Vacation Rental Advisory Committee now has 14 members – three more “citizen category” members added to it by the city Planning Commission.
The extra three members were approved after former city councilor Lon Brusselback noticed that early appointees to the VRD Committee heavily represented the VRD, real estate and real estate related legal profession. Brusselback contended that those who are predictably in favor of more VRDs are in a conflict of interest when considering whether to add more VRDs to Newport’s already extremely tight housing situation. In fact Brusselback contended that city ordinances prohibit such conflicts.
But after conferring with the city attorney on the matter, the council was given the green light to appoint three additional members who had no ties to any aspect of the VRD industry, increasing the number of committee members to 14. Brusselback says he’s still not convinced that adding three more “VRD-neutral” committee members will meet the letter of city law. But City Attorney Steve Rich says the committee is a recommendation committee. It is not the final authority on the matter of VRDs. Its findings or opinions are purely advisory, not binding on the city Planning Commission. Then the Planning Commission will deliberate on its own and then recommend its opinion to the City Council, which will make the final decisions on how many new VRDs the city will entertain and where, within the city limits. And every step of the way Newport citizens will have multiple opportunities to provide observations and opinions on the issue to the ad hoc committee, the Planning Commission and the City Council.
The volunteer, ad hoc VRD committee will be meeting on Valentines Day to begin their study of the town’s VRD situation. Citizens are invited to attend the committee’s next public meeting on February 14th, 1pm at Newport City Hall.