In what could be interpreted as a “get tough” approach to Vacation Rental Dwelling (VRD) rule violators, the Lincoln City City Council this week, acting as a VRD Appeals Board, tentatively revoked the VRD business license of a Lake Oswego couple who own a VRD in the Nelscott area on SW Beach Street. Neighbors have filed complaints over the past two years of excessive noise and smoke as renters gathered in the back yard of the unit, a 1929 home that has been converted into a vacation rental.
Scott and Kathleen Kiever said they have done their best to make amends to the neighbors by posting “No Noise” notices around and inside the home, and have gotten rid of the open fire pit apparatus used to build small bon fires. However, city staff said that the family only recently completely did away with the fire pit and that the noise problem persists. Staff also indicated that the home’s garage, which is required to provide guest parking, was too frequently filled with odds and ends that made it impossible to be used as a parking spot. The Kievers told the council that the extra “stuff” has been removed from the garage and that it is now available for parking a vehicle.
The city’s code Enforcement officer told the appeals board that the Kievers have been cited into municipal court and were found guilty twice of violations, paying $1,600 in fines. The officer also noted that the home is in a very densely packed area so parking is at a premium and that the home is situated in such a way that noise has been a constant problem for the neighbors.
The Kievers acknowledged the problems but pointed out that four formal complaints over the past two years still gives them a 98% compliance rate with city codes pertaining to VRD’s. However, a neighbor testified that the Kiever rental has been a nuisance to the neighbors far more often than they were officially cited. He said, “I don’t mean to be a whiner or complainer, or a cop for the city, but there are nights I can’t get to sleep I from all the noise coming from the Kiever property.”
The Kievers said if they lost their VRD license they’d be losing $100,000 in improvements they’ve made to the property. However, city councilor Alex Ward reminded the Kievers that they could always rent their home out on a month to month basis.
In the end the council, acting as an appeals board, voted unanimously to revoke the Kiever’s VRD business license. Mayor Dick Anderson said their ruling is likely to be finalized when the city council convenes again on March 12th.
The city council this week hired a community facilitator to help Lincoln City residents and VRD owners find common ground on the issues of noise, parking, trash/garbage, etc., and developing regulations and criteria for current and future VRD owners to qualify for a VRD business license. Over the years, Lincoln City has become home to hundreds of VRD’s, creating a density of vacation rentals unparalleled in any city on the Oregon Coast. There have been years upon years of local neighbor complaints about VRD’s that they contend are frequently owned by wealthy Portland area real estate investors who care only about the money they make rather than being good neighbors. Neighbors also complain that the city ordinance governing VRD’s is violated with impunity as many owners treat their units like mini-hotels rather than their main residence described in city law as “Owners shall have the right to rent their homes out on occasions when they themselves are not using it.” But VRD property manager Carolyn Plummer told the council that her understanding of that sentence is that homes are available quite often throughout the year, not just “occasionally.”
The city’s VRD consultant is expected to mediate and negotiate a city position relative to VRD’s when he schedules a number of community-wide meetings and consultations with stakeholders. But it appears that whatever the outcome, the council’s decision this week sends a clear signal to city residents that if a VRD in their neighborhood is causing a verifiable and repetitive nuisance, and they promptly complain to the city, the owner runs a substantial risk of losing their VRD business license.