Thompsons keep their transient rental license, new councilor sworn in, council inches closer to a vote on more downtown parking
Vacation home rental property owners Wayne and Alma Thompson of Portland drove all the way down to Yachats to beat city hall. And they did it – with the help of one of the county’s most skilled government sword fighters – Newport attorney Dennis Bartoldus. The Thompsons were facing a two month suspension of their transient rental license on a home they own on Yachats Ocean Road at a breathtakingly beautiful overlook of Yachats Bay. The Thompsons stood to lose a lot of money if the suspension was finalized.
The council was rather agitated on reports from neighbors that the Thompsons were allowing violations of the town’s rules about vacation rentals by turning a blind eye to illegal parking by vehicles filling up the driveway and spilling out over the lawn. Also, campers and R/V’s parking outside with electrical wires running around the grounds – and that neighbors’ complaints to Thompson’s property managers fell on deaf ears – these and other complaints alleged by the neighbors.
That’s when attorney Dennis Bartoldus set himself down in the witness chair. He proceeded to unwind most if not all of the allegations by pointing out that the city’s own parking ordinance dealing with transient rental parking is unclear, making it difficult to fully know what is or isn’t legal parking. Bartoldus said it was always the policy of the Thompsons that spill-over parking could use the lawn area but that the neighbors should have been upset more about the transient rental unit next door, the one with six bedrooms, whose renters were covering most of the turf with overflow vehicles.
Bartoldus also went on to say that there may have been confusion on which number to call to contact the Thompson’s local property manager but that the number was clearly marked on the information placarded on the house and that the city’s code enforcement officer admitted as such on the record. Bartoldus also reminded the council that the code enforcement officer had made several inspections this year and each time did not find the property out of compliance with city codes.
The owners of Thompson’s local property management firm, Beachside Rentals, testified that they respond day or night to complaints and that they were a bit taken aback at the recent flurry of complaints – many of which they contend were caused by the next door neighbor’s transient rental property and it’s veritable parking lot of renters. But in one instance that the Thompsons found out about later, a Utah family had parked a camper out front on the lawn with electrical wires running from the house to the camper. Bartoldus said that was done without the knowledge of the Thompsons and violated the rental agreement.
As a peace offering, Bartoldus told the council that the Thompson’s have already put up a notice on their property that parking is restricted to the driveway. Nothing on the lawn and nothing in the street right of way. Bartoldus said the proper local number to call for lodging complaints is also clearly marked and posted. He said the Thompsons have been long-time property owners in Yachats bringing mover a million dollars in economic activity to the community with their properties and they would like to continue the relationship.
Mayor Brean said “This is the response I was hoping to get – easier access to the property management firm and changing the map on the wall to say no parking on the grass and take steps to enforce it.” The other councilors seemed also in agreement with Brean expressing relief that there appears to be a way forward without shutting down a business that brings business to Yachats. However, councilor Greg Scott said the problem had gone on for a long period of time and that such problems should not allowed to erode the neighborhood’s quality of life.
The vote to give the Thompsons another chance was 4 to 1, with Councilor Scott voting no.
Mayor Brean and his council are already in the process of clarifying the city ordinance on parking restrictions for Transient Rentals which should also head of future problems on parking.
Mayor Brean brought up his proposal to provide more parking in the downtown area and to re-locate the town’s visitors center to a more effective location with more parking of its own. Brean reiterated his desire for the voters of Yachats to consider authorizing the town to spend up to $600,000 to acquire more parking within easy walking distance of most stores, restaurants and watering holes. Brean said some might involve designated street parking or scattered small lots around the downtown. He also said there is support for acquiring a new location for the town’s visitors center that will require its own expanded parking. A few in the audience asked Brean what pieces of property is he thinking the city should buy. Brean answered that to disclose specific parcels or possible prices would only tip off property owners which would likely drive prices even higher.
But Councilor Greg Scott pointed out that the $600,000 might be better applied toward expanding the town library, improving the 804 trail, applying funds to continue working on the town’s Community Parks Master Plan, and possibly advancing the Ridge Trail on the east side of Highway 101 to dovetail with portions of the Loop Trail. Scott said he thinks the council and the town needs to talk more about the options than just going after parking.
Mayor Brean said it’s been long agreed by current and past city councils that downtown parking is a top challenge that must be tackled. It no doubt factors into discussions and debates about ODOT’s proposal to beautify and streetscape the downtown, although the subject was not mentioned by name during the council meeting. Brean said the $600,000 maximum figure was intended to ensure that the city had the resources to get something meaningful accomplished and quickly added that he thinks there is a good chance it may not take the full $600,000. “In fact I really believe we can get the parking we need and the visitors center issue handled for something less than that,” Brean said. Brean went on to note that he knows of three pieces of vacant properties that would work, and three other pieces that would accommodate the visitors center.
In the end, the council agreed that the ballot issue that Mayor Brean would like to get on the May ballot needs some clarification in its language. The council asked City Recorder Nancy Batchelder to work on it so that the issue may be discussed further and a vote taken by councilors at their next meeting.
And Recorder Batchelder swore in new City Councilor Barbara Frye, who is a practicing nurse. She’s no newcomer to city hall service. She was serving on the Yachats Parks and Commons Commission and has been an all around Yachats community booster.