Proposals involve VRD-protected areas of town that have rules and regulations to prevent nuisance issues versus areas of town where VRDs would remain banned. The other proposal is to open up the whole city for VRDs with enhanced strict enforcement of VRDs and dramatically stepped up code enforcement.
Predictably, permanent residents of Newport complain about VRD invasions of their neighborhoods that dramatically lower their quality of life, if not their property values. Then others, mostly VRD owners or property management firms that manage VRDs say, if the city tries to cluster VRDs in areas near commercial or tourism services there might be a flurry of VRD-owner lawsuits even if the changes were made over a five or ten period.
One VRD owner said their industry brings in a lot of money to Newport and they want that to continue. But another citizen indicated that permanent residents and centers of employment like NOAA and HMSC and normal tourism facilities contribute far more to the community and should not be discounted. And that if the number of VRDs expand, it will only make affordable housing that much harder to find.
Others like Newport resident Lon Brusselback pointed out that the city Planning Commission recommended consolidating VRDs in limited areas near tourism and shopping facilities to give regular neighborhoods a break from the noise and excessive parking created by VRDs. He and others told the council that city planning staff is recommending just the opposite by advocating VRDs be allowed in wider areas of the city, thereby disrupting the quality of life of those living in those neighborhoods.
The city council acknowledged this “great divide” of opinion and scheduled another city council workshop (no public testimony) for April 1st, 3pm at City Hall. Whatever course changes are produced will be forwarded to a formal city council session for May 6th for possible final decision on where VRDs should be allowed around town.
On another topic, Newport Fire Chief Rob Murphy asked the city council to authorize formal negotiations with their next-door neighbor fire district, the Newport Rural Fire District. The Rural Fire District contracts for fire services with Newport Fire by collecting property taxes levied on their homes and businesses that are outside the Newport City Limits. These contract services have been in effect for years, but the rural district is now interested in consolidating with Newport, and forwarding their tax dollars either to the city or to a whole new fire protection district that would encompass both Newport and the rural areas around it.
The city council seemed to be taken aback by the idea but none-the-less gave the go-ahead to explore what such a merger might accomplish. No details were discussed – it’s strictly exploratory and may take a couple of years to hammer out the details. Therefore, no immediate changes are contemplated.
The proposed merger mirrors other consolidation efforts between North Lincoln County and the Depoe Bay Fire Districts. That merger could be a couple of years away as well.
And Chief Murphy and the head of PacWest Ambulance got permission from the city council to give relief to the fire department from having to respond to most medical calls around town. Chief Murphy reminded the council that most medical calls automatically trigger the activation of PacWest Ambulance and a city fire truck. And there has been a dramatic increase in the number of calls for helping someone get up off the floor after a fall, inside or outside their homes, or for a simple transport to the hospital.
Chief Murphy says most calls are a waste of time and money for the fire department which does not get reimbursed for such activations. There’s also instances when a fire truck crew is at a medical call and a real emergency, like a car wreck or a house fire catches them flat-footed, causing a delayed response to the real emergency. But if an ambulance crew really needs extra help from the fire department, Newport Fire-Rescue will respond to the scene.
The council gave their blessing to the “as needed” protocol. Chief Murphy and the manager of PacWest shook hands and committed themselves to the new procedures.