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Monica Kirk Receives Rural Community Builder Award

Monica Kirk and a few other 15neighborhood Steering Committee members. From L to R: Jim Peterson, Michele Riley, Monica Kirk (center, wearing Rural Community Builder Award cap and holding dog), Robin Hochtritt, and Jay Riley.

Photo credit: Carla Perry

MONICA KIRK NAMED RECIPIENT OF
RURAL COMMUNITY BUILDER AWARD

Monica Kirk has been named the recipient of the Ford Institute for Community Building’s Rural Community Builder Award. The award honors a person who goes above and beyond to make their community a better place. Monica is the public face behind 15neighborhoods. It was this group that succeeded in initiating, and passing, Ballot Measure 21-203 in November 2021. The measure stops the licensing of new short-term rentals, limits ownership to one vacation rental property, reduces occupancy, requires septic safety enhancements and, perhaps most significantly, phases out short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods of unincorporated Lincoln County.

After trying for almost two years to work with the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners, what started as a personal effort to save her own neighborhood expanded to become a countywide endeavor. The grassroots, community-based group called 15neighborhoods became an inclusive, formidable, unified endeavor when residents from all over the county got involved to address the problems caused by short-term rentals in their neighborhoods. When collaboration with the Lincoln County Commissioners failed to halt the uncontrolled proliferation of vacation rentals, Monica determined that a citizen-sponsored initiative would be needed. Monica Kirk and two others, Michele Riley, and Marge Farness (deceased), were the co-petitioners for the short-term rental Citizens Initiative that became Ballot Measure 21-203.

The residents who coalesced into the group called 15neighborhoods, collected sufficient signatures to qualify for the November 2021 ballot. Measure 21-203 passed by a landslide and was certified on November 19, 1921 even though the opposition, financed by two major vacation rental giants and a few out-of-town property owners, and using voter fraud, fear tactics, and numerous direct mailers containing outright lies, outspent 15neighborhoods 10 to 1.

In response to 15neighborhoods’ victory at the polls, members of the short-term rental industry filed four lawsuits against the County, demanding that Measure 21-203, and the vote of the people, be overturned. A temporary restraining order was filed to stop the Measure from taking effect. However, attorneys for 15neighborhoods continue to defend the vote. The main litigious issue remains private financial greed versus sustainable residential communities in unincorporated Lincoln County.

As the legal process continues, one matter has been settled. The opposition’s lawsuit claimed the measure is a Land Use issue, but as of February 10, 2022, LUBA (Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals) determined it is not. Their ruling was that Measure 21-203 affects only business licensing, which is a great victory for 15neighborhoods and the residents of Lincoln County. However, the opposition’s appeals continue and 15neighborhoods is still incurring legal costs. Please consider donating online at www.15neighborhoods.com by Paypal, or mailing a check to 15neighborhoods, P.O. Box 390, Depoe Bay, OR 97341. All donations are being used for legal expenses.

Numerous other counties and municipalities in Oregon are watching the precedent-setting activities taking place in Lincoln County, and their representatives have joined the 15neighborhoods Steering Committee to share and learn strategies to deal with the vacation rental crisis affecting cities and municipalities throughout Oregon and the nation.

Although Monica Kirk is the first to say she wasn’t alone in accomplishing all this, without her initial efforts and persistence, none of this progress would have happened. Monica is a true inspiration for the 10,080 residents in Lincoln County who voted yes to live in residential neighborhoods free of commercial enterprises. Monica received the award because she is courageous, inspiring, relentless, focused, inclusive, and smart. She continues to go above and beyond in making her community a better place to live.

The Ford Institute for Community Building is a program of the Ford Family Foundation, based in Roseburg, Oregon.

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