Phasing out of vacation rentals to appear in ballot in November | New

Lincoln County voters will be asked in November to approve an ordinance that would phase out short-term legal rentals in unincorporated residential areas after five years.

The 15neighbourhoods organization, formed last year by a group of residents concerned about the expansion of short-term rentals in their neighborhoods, learned on Wednesday that Lincoln County Clerk Dana Jenkins had certified that they had raised enough signatures to write a measure on the ballot.

The group began circulating a petition in the spring of 2020, seeking to pose a question on the ballot that, if approved, would create an ordinance revoking the licenses of existing vacation rental homes located in low-income residential areas. density (R-1-A, R -1 and R-2) outside the cities in five years, as well as to prohibit the issuance of new licenses and the transfer of licenses during this period of five years.

It would also immediately impose a new occupancy limit of two people per room, a requirement for an evaluation of the septic system by a state-licensed inspector, off-street parking spaces and additions to the complaint process.

The petition came after more than a year of discussions on new short-term rental regulations by the Lincoln County Council of Commissioners, largely at the behest of residents who went on to form 15 wards.

In March 2020, commissioners imposed a moratorium on new licenses – more than 100 licenses were issued in the previous year, an increase of more than 20% – as those considerations spread. Work was further delayed by the government-wide response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the September 2020 wildfires.

Currently, there is no cap on the total number of licenses in Unincorporated Lincoln County (cities set their own limits and regulations, and most municipalities in the county have caps on the number of licenses. ) – that is, anyone who meets the legal criteria to obtain the commercial vacation rental license established by the county in 2016 could receive one, before the moratorium.

The council passed bylaws, such as an occupancy limit of three per room and 16 per house, quiet hours and septic requirements.

There were just over 600 licenses when the board suspended acceptance of applications. There are now 523, according to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, which is responsible for administration and enforcement.

In November 2020, former county attorney Wayne Belmont presented county commissioners with options for new regulations and announced that workshops would be held early in the new year for the public to provide input. It was proposed to limit the total number of permits / limit the percentage of homes in a given geographic area that could become licensed vacation rentals, reduce occupancy to two per room, require a septic system assessment which would include its own occupancy limits, and the creation of a new administrative process for hearing complaints.

Following the county’s first workshop, 15 wards announced they would suspend their petition efforts – waiving the May ballot – to support and participate in council reflections.

Members of the group say that short-term rentals hurt the quality of life in their neighborhoods. They cite issues such as overcrowding, noise, excess waste and overloading septic systems, and they also say that the diversion of housing stock for tourism purposes is exacerbating an already difficult market for buyers and tenants. full-time residents.

Vacation rental property owners – many of whom have found representation through Via Oregon, an industry group formed in response to the 15 Neighborhoods petition – argue that most of their peers take care to be good neighbors, and they underline the key role of tourism in the economy of the county. Via Oregon commissioned and submitted a report tying $ 192 million in local wages to the vacation rental industry.

The council held workshops in January and April, for which it received hundreds of comments. As a result of these workshops, the Commissioners all indicated that they preferred a permit cap based on the area, as well as the proposed septic requirements, occupancy limit and the hearing process. However, developing these zone-specific regulations would require a fourth extension of the moratorium, which was due to expire on June 1, this time until November 30.

Monica Kirk, a member of the 15 Neighborhoods Steering Committee, said the board’s inaction prompted the group to reactivate its outreach activities.

Collecting signatures beforehand was difficult, she said, as restrictions related to the pandemic prevented in-person campaigns – people had to download a copy of the petition themselves, sign it and submit it. Organizers were able to press the flesh as the county moved to the old low-risk category, and the response was enthusiastic.

Kirk said they had enough signatures – 1,454 – as of June. On August 2, they handed 1,714 signatures to the county clerk, who accepted 1,566 and certified the measure for the ballot.

In a Wednesday press release announcing the certification, 15 neighborhoods said they believe short-term rentals have a place in the county, but only belong to high-density tourist and residential commercial areas. . Most, if not all, of the 523 vacation rentals currently licensed in unincorporated Lincoln County are located in low-density residential neighborhoods.

The press release notes that the proposed ordinance contains a provision allowing neighborhoods with a large number of these rentals to apply for appropriate zoning, with the approval of the majority of residents.

The proposed ordinance also contains a hardship provision, which would allow the Council of Commissioners to grant exemptions from the five-year time limit for homes that have been significantly altered specifically for the purpose of operating as a vacation rental, in order to that the owner recoups (“amortizes”) their investment.

“(Short-term rentals) just don’t have a place in these quiet, low-density residential neighborhoods designed for families, not business… That nurse you need in the hospital, or the new teacher your kid, needs a place to live in Lincoln County, ”the press release read.

The press release refers to the continued review of regulations by commissioners as “vital to preserving the quality of life in our neighborhoods as we patiently await the end of the five-year phase-out.”

While the ordinance would only apply to areas of the county outside of cities, the question will appear on the ballot of every eligible voter in the county.

Representatives from Via Oregon say they aren’t opposing all regulations, but the ballot measure, along with the board’s proposed caps, will do more harm than good.

“We take the concerns of our communities very seriously and support the creation of good policy,” the group said in a statement following the 15nieghborhood press release. “When studying effective vacation rental policies across the country, it is clear that heavy regulations or prohibitions, including caps, only drive the industry underground and increase the cost of the app for all Lincoln County taxpayers. “

The group again highlighted its commissioned study on the industry’s local economic impact and urged voters and commissioners to heed it.

Heather Brann, a Via Oregon member and lawyer who owns a vacation rental property on Devils Lake, previously told the News-Times the group was confident the order would be overturned by the courts if it succeeded at the polls. Belmont, the former county attorney, also said he was concerned the order could lead to litigation against the county as the entity responsible for its enforcement.

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