Newport City Councilors Monday night tackled an issue that routinely overwhelms other citys’ ability to control and still make some room tax money from them. They’re called “Vacation Rental Dwellings,” houses that are rented out, around the calendar, by out-of-town owners – some of whom care about their neighbors, while others don’t. Lincoln City is currently in the throes of a municipal convulsion over their HUNDREDS of vacation rentals, not all of which behave themselves. Neighbors have made weekly sojourns to city hall to loudly complain about the lax controls on vacation rentals that often are the scene of loud, late night parties, cars and SUV’s that clog streets and sometimes other people’s property, and trash that leaves the streets strewn with tv dinner boxes, beer bottles and week old pizza. It’s prompted Lincoln City to hire a consultant to lead them out of what they claim is a vacation rental nightmare that could get even worse if Roads End eventually annexes into the city.
Now add Newport to the discussion. Newport City Councilors Monday began toying with the idea of expanding VRD’s in Newport. Newport already has a number of them around town, and for the most they fit in pretty well with their neighborhoods. The city collects room taxes on them as they would any hotel or motel room. However, Newport Community Development Director Derrick Tokos presented the council with a greatly upgraded set of rules that would allow VRD’s in not only commercial areas, and areas near the beach, but just about anywhere in town. However, he assured the council that permission for those VRD’s would come with very tight restrictions on the way they’re run. And if they get three major violations about noise, parking or trash in a one year period the city can shut them down.
Tokos contends that the way VRD’s get out of control is when there is no point of contact for a misbehaving VRD. Tokos said, “If there is someone who is responsible for the property and is available 24/7 for a phone call or a knock on the door, problems are greatly reduced.” Repeated offenses, he says, means the VRD’s license to operate can be revoked. Tokos added that VRD’s can contribute substantially to the local tourist economy if they’re operated correctly. He added that the city planning commission has fully reviewed the issue and recommended approval of the VRD ordinance overhaul./
But ensuring that VRD’s are operated correctly is what prompted one resident to warn the council that keeping VRD’s on the straight and narrow is bound to cost the city a lot of money in terms of new code enforcement staff and a potential for a lot of angry neighbors if the city doesn’t enforce the rules. He said some VRD owners, who operate illegally, continue to claim that their friends or relatives are staying in their house; claiming they’re not running a business and therefore don’t fall under VRD rules.
However, Tokos says the city can handle such situations through filed complaints and routine city code enforcement. He said legitimate VRD owners want to follow the rules. And again, if a few don’t, their VRD license can be yanked. Tokos adds that he investigated VRD ordinances and guidelines throughout the West and found that the key to VRD control is being able to contact someone who is responsible for the property.
Advantage Real Estate owner Bonnie Saxton supported expanding VRD opportunities in Newport. She said “We’re a tourist based economy. Why should our city government miss out on a lot of unpaid room taxes from “underground” VRD’s” when they should be paying what the hotels and motel operators are paying? It’s time to stop the cheaters by enacting a city ordinance that can be enforced.”
Tokos said the city can track down “under the radar” VRD’s by checking vacation rental advertisements on Craig’s list, real estate and property management websites and newspaper want ads. He said once the word gets out, through a broad public education campaign, illicit VRD operators can come forth and apply for a business license and learn the new rules. If they don’t, citizens with a rogue VRD in their neighborhood can call the city and finger particular houses that have continuous changing occupants.
Tokos said the new ordinance would take effect July first, so there is plenty of time to educate the public and to invite those who own vacation rentals to comply with the new city rules. Those who have been playing by the old rules would be grandfathered in despite new requirements on parking and landscaping. Those who were operating illegally will be welcome to apply for a VRD license. However, they would have to comply with the enhanced parking and landscaping requirements unless the city planning commission and city council works out other arrangements with them. Brand new VRD applicants would also be invited to apply.
However, the city council balked at approving the new rules. They said they want greater clarity on possible VRD enforcement costs, and other aspects of the proposal. Tokos said he would bring back the answers to their questions at the next city council meeting.