THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
Everybody likes to hear about “elephants in the living room,” unless it’s in their living room. BUT Sometimes elephants are not that obvious.
A few weeks ago the Newport Planning Commission issued its long-awaited and highly vetted Draft Ordinance 2144, pertaining to Vacation Rentals, for presentation to the City Council. Simultaneously, the Planning Director, to the surprise and chagrin of many, came out with his own parallel but competing version!
By strongly advocating against the planning commission’s recommendations, the planning director, in effect, seeks to dismiss their recommendations and replace them with his own. The planning director is supposed to help guide and support the planning commission, not be their executive director. This puts the Council in an awkward, if not embarrassing position.
But, it gets worse.
The Planning Commission’s draft version is a response to the huge influx of more VRDs and consequently the draft is designed to protect neighborhood livability. But the Planning Director’s version changes little from the original 2012 ordinance which offers little neighborhood protection.
The Planning Commission version is favored primarily by full-time residents who welcome the protection, while the Planning Director’s version is favored by VRD owners. More than 70% of Newport’s VRDs are owned by people who live outside of Lincoln County as mentioned in testimony at the February 19th City Council meeting. By simple extension, one can conclude that the Planning Commission is advocating for Newport residents – while its very own Planning Director is advocating for VRD non-residents!
So there’s the elephant — our government – working perilously at cross-purposes. When our planning director supports his own agenda over that of the duly appointed and community-rooted planning commission, a very big red flag goes up and flaps in the faces of our City Council, our City Manager and every resident of Newport.
We are caught in a potentially very damaging situation. To get it right we have to DO it right, City Council!