Lincoln City City Councilors took their first flight through the clouds of how best to regulate Vacation Rental Dwellings. And it appears they came in for, perhaps, not a smooth landing – but it was a pretty good one.
The council is reviewing a very detailed set of findings made recently by VRD owners, operator/managers, residents and other stakeholder groups as to how to keep VRD’s working well for their owners and commercial servicers, and for surrounding neighbors. In the past there have been horrific stories about wild parties, continuous bad behavior, chaotic parking and garbage issues and other problem that have made neighbors, if not whole neighborhoods miserable. And they want something done about it. Currently the city planning commission is reviewing the findings. And now the city council is weighing in.
During Tuesday’s workshop, the council said most of the more useful controls on how VRD’s are regulated and fined for bad management is found in the licensing of VRD’s The council liked the fact that VRD licenses have hooks that can get the property manager and owner’s attention. Fines can be substantial. Licenses can be revoked. Specific requirements in order to hang onto a license can be clearly laid out whether it’s about noise, illegal parking or trash/garbage problems. Councilors seemed to agree that property managers and owners must be kept in the loop when the police are called on noise, parking or garbage problems. Fining the tenants, they felt, only made the city appear to be too tough on tourists. It might hurt the city’s reputation. However, if the tenants are terribly out of control steps must be taken obviously. However, owners and property managers need to know immediately when complaints are filed and what actions were taken. And if there is a continued pattern of violations, then the specter of losing their VRD license comes into play.
On issues of parking, there are instances when there just isn’t enough. Councilors seemed to agree that a certain number of spaces should be required but that the garage should not be counted, because VRD’s garages are seldom used. There were discussions among the councilors about issuing a number of “parking permits or passes” that can be used at public parking lots.
The council appeared agreeable to dividing up the city into VRD YES and NO zones. VRD’s already established in NO zones would be treated the same as VRD’s in YES zones. Those in NO zones could be phased out upon the sale of the property. Other conditions might apply.
Councilors also talked about what are called Best Management Practices” or BMP’s. The council said VRD owners and property managers could get together and craft a list of do’s and don’ts about VRD’s and the way their run. The city would be willing to post them on the city website for public information and educational purposes. They would be recommended with no force of law or regulations behind them. More of a benchmark that hopefully would head off problems before they grow into violations of a business license.
As for illegally operating VRD’s, the council seemed comfortable with fines of $5,000 for the first offense, $10,000 for the second, and $25,000 for the third. City Manager David Hawker said, “These fines cannot be slaps on the wrist. It’s gotta hurt. That’s what these fine levels do. We can’t let fines be factored into the cost of doing business for the very lucrative vacation rental dwelling industry.”
In the meantime, the city planning commission is reviewing the VRD issue and will forward their set of recommendations to the city council. The council will also be holding further workshops on it. And then, sometime this year, all three sets of data and opinions will come together in a city council hearing, or sets of hearings, to formulate a new set of VRD ordinances to regulate their operations in Lincoln City.