More than nineteen months and hundreds of pages of public input were condensed by the Lincoln County Office of County Counsel into draft recommendations for the Short Term Rental (STR) Business Licensing Program. It was delivered to the County Commissioners shortly before their March 29, 2021 meeting. They fell short, missing the mark when it comes to providing relief to neighborhoods in unincorporated Lincoln County.
As ViaOregon, Vacasa, Meredith, and others push to expand the number of STRs along the coast, our neighborhoods are being redefined. Outside investors are acquiring as many residential homes and vacant lots as possible along the coast to expand their STR pool. Homeowners are being peppered with offers to buy and rent their home. Vacasa, for example, states “a unique characteristic of Vacasa is our ability to offer unparalleled financial results to our homeowners”, and “Our general premise is simple: you should earn more before Vacasa earns anything.” This is from a letter by Vacasa’s Co-founder and CEO Eric Breon.
These businesses seek a diversity in style, views, and price so that more people can come and enjoy the beauty of the coast without any of the responsibilities required of a good neighbor. The County’s draft recommendations look at STR caps, the 3-strikes rule, septic system requirements, and the number of people per rental. However, they completely fail to address the heart of the problem: what truly makes and defines a genuine neighborhood!
So, what truly makes and defines a neighborhood? What makes a good neighbor? They say “hi” as we pass during our walks. Sometimes we engage in impromptu talk as we encounter each other. We interact with each other – inviting each other for a cup of coffee, to a barbecue, to play a game, or to watch a sports event. We can rely on each other to watch our homes while we are on vacation. We lend a hand with yard projects.
Advice from a neighbor can be extremely valuable. Neighbors offer help when there is a medical need, perhaps a trip to the hospital. Some just need a shoulder to lean on after suffering a loss. They will pick up items for one another during a trip to town. Sometimes they care for each other’s pets – sometimes they babysit. Involved homeowners will volunteer to serve on the Home Owners Association Board, to serve on a committee or volunteer for the Road District. These are the things that strengthen neighborhoods. These are the things that make them good and where people and families want to live. As STRs proliferate, there will be fewer homeowners volunteering for these important responsibilities, fewer personal interactions and connections, and fewer families wanting to live here.
STRs are a cancer on residential neighborhoods eating away at its fabric, vitality, and livability. We should limit the number of STRs in areas zoned for NEIGHBORHOOD residential living – even phasing out STRs over time. Restrict STRs to areas not designated for full-time residential homes. Instead, we should encourage the growth of motels in Lincoln County to meet this need. Consider the successful City of Hood River. This STR nightmare could not be foreseen years ago. The protective HOA guidelines and CC&Rs did not address them when our neighborhood, Sandpiper Village, was established in 1968. Now it is nearly impossible to add provisions. Residents are desperate, feel helpless and angry, seeing that nothing is being done to stop the influx of STRs. They are frustrated with county inaction regarding STR complaints. Support is needed for neighborhoods, NOT businesses. We want our neighborhoods back!
Please provide support by going to www.15neighborhoods.com to complete and send in your petition. Let’s get this in front of the voters of Lincoln County. Send a clear message that neighborhood interests take priority over business interests.
“We need STRs in Unincorporated Lincoln County. But like the cities, let’s license them in Commercial-Tourist Zones, not in our Residentially-Zoned neighborhoods .”