From Dave Morgan, News Lincoln County
I listened to this week’s City Council and Planning Commission discussions on Vacation Rental Dwellings, aka VRDs. Opinions were all over the place. It was very clear which sides were being taken. Some were high minded and embraced community values. Others sounded like they were fronting for VRD brokers. There is merit on both sides. Both sides – as in two sides – even though there are probably ten or more because there are ten or more. Not just two.
I have been a news reporter for well over 40 years – big cities, little cities, countrysides. I’m like the Farmer’s Insurance bald-headed hawker on TV. “I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two.”
In my opinion everyone in the debate has a right to defend and promote their opinions. And everyone has a right to be truly heard and be taken seriously. But it is the WHOLE picture of life in Newport that is at stake – not just “custom versions” of wished-for advantage. VRD promoters are looking for profits. Newport residents are looking for a home in a good neighborhood.
Oil and water have never blended. Inserting more VRDs into already disrupted neighborhoods is THEFT…theft of a safe, secure and enjoyable home environment.
An irresistible force against an immovable object is a fool’s game.
There are ways to have profitable VRDs and happy homes. But the discussions surrounding the entire VRD issue have been bi-polar. No new fresh ideas on how to pull a rabbit out of a hat.
The search for the “Guru Rabbit” in Newport has been as long as it has been clumsy. It’s been a terribly long and exhausting tug-of-war. It must stop before the whole town disappears into a sinkhole of mayhem under the weight of everyones’ demands.
To an outsider it’s perfectly clear that all those involved must seek authentically fresh ideas. Municipal marriage counseling, if you will. Or to be more to the point, a process that can be easily construed as a minor moratorium on new VRDs. Then launch what amounts to a crash course in VRD behavior in communities NATIONWIDE. From that fertile list of community experiences and the other list of credible time-tested consulting firms, solicit ten of those firms to bid on solving Newport’s VRD challenge.
There will be many who pound their chest and bellow, “We don’t need outsiders telling us what to do or how to think.” But there’s another old saying, “There’s nothing more deadly than pooled ignorance.”
There’s nothing shameful about admitting that a community’s top 5 leaders may not have all the answers. There is also nothing wrong with thinking beyond one’s city limits. There are countless studies and proven, as well as disproven theories about the dynamics of VRDs’ effects on communities.
Newport residents should demand more accountability as to the strengths and weaknesses of these academic investigations. The answers are out there. Newport residents deserve to know what they are. Only then will they be able to fall asleep at night knowing everything was done to arrive at the most fair, the most prosperous, as well as preferred “hometown” outcomes in regards to the challenge of VRDs.
Permanent residents of Newport deserve to have their city council spend some serious time on researching VRD vs. Non-VRD neighborhood solutions that benefited local economies without harming permanent residents. Re-inventing the wheel is time consuming, tumultuous and without guarantees of a universally good outcome. Valid research from seasoned land use consultants is vital for Newport’s search for a fair and healthy solution to its VRD problems.
Newport residents and government leaders themselves need to do some much needed homework to explore all VRD management options that have been proven to work across the country. The more ideas on the table the better.
Meanwhile, slowing down the Newport VRD land rush should be a top priority if only to allow Newport the time to figure out workable as well as fair options, keeping in mind that if it isn’t “Win-Win” it isn’t “Win-Win.”