County commissioners: work for us, not against us

Perhaps the only thing one can hope for at this time is that each of the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners (BOC), along with County Counsel Belmont has a short-term rental (STR) with five bedrooms set up shop next door to their homes.  Then and only then will they see firsthand what we have been living with since 2016.  

That date of 2016 is relevant because before 2016, there were pockets of unincorporated areas of Lincoln County that had many, many problems — think Road’s End here. However, this was largely an isolated issue pre-2016. In 2016, the county did a good thing, requiring licenses for STRs. Then the floodgates opened, and every greedy SOB with a bungalow, home, hovel or mansion decided, rubbing their hands together greedily, that they could be rich, and nothing or no one better get in their way of being “in the money.”

That is when all the management companies came straight to the bullseye target that little, old, woefully unprepared Lincoln County had on its back. And now we have Vacasa with a real estate office in Lincoln City, we have Meredith Lodging who I have been told does something called “dynamic pricing,” Yachats-based Sweet Homes, Airbnb, VRBO, TurnKey, Oregon Beach Vacations and probably many more as well, as the illegally operating ones and the mom and pop renters of one home. Lincoln County was in no way ready for the onslaught of trash, noise, trespassing, traffic and the like when they licensed everything with a door and a window in our county. One commissioner said the problem is “not a problem of houses but a problem of the people in those houses.” And, that commissioner is partially correct in that statement.  

So why did the county commissioners not correct the horrible policy of three people per bedroom and two more for the house by dropping occupancy levels to the much more appropriate two people per bedroom period? No one seems to know.  This would hurt no one. The rates are still the same for the money the STR owners/managers charge, so what gives? Why not give something to us long-suffering neighbors of these hotels and their inconsiderate guests? But no, the BOC just put a small pause in this unmitigated game of greed, entitlement and selfishness. And us, the year-round residents of these formerly peaceful, quiet neighborhoods, we get to fight the rudeness yet again or we get to move out. Those are our limited choices thanks to the inaction of the BOC.

Lincoln County needs to put teeth into these laws and here are my recommendations to do now:

  • For all STRs, two people per bedroom, period.
  • No septic STRs. Phase these out immediately. 
  • Owner occupied STRs only in residential neighborhoods. No more motels operated by nameless, faceless, companies and out-of-town or out-of-state owners.  If there is a problem in that STR in that neighborhood, the owner is right there to take care of it. 
  • You can only own one STR in Lincoln County, and you must be a resident of Lincoln County to own an STR. This stops the stables of STRs owned by out-of-town or out-of-state people who are just cashing in on Lincoln County’s very lax laws and regulations. These people are making a fortune off of the county and not giving back to our community. 
  • Spacing, limits and percentages.If you continue to license every home in the county, there will be no place that is free from this cancer, and Lincoln County as we know it will die. 

If you do nothing else on this list and continue to love money and out-of-state self-interests more than your own constituents who voted you into office, then do this: No more STRs where there are already too many, set a cap (limit) for areas (neighborhoods) of less than 50 homes, 5 percent or less of the existing housing stock may be STRs in such areas. Then look at spacing — no more than one house per block or street, thus preserving the neighborhood and the quiet we have come to rely upon. Then reduce the overage for those areas through attrition and a five-year phase-out for existing STRs in these areas.  

BOC, you are not protecting us from the “Grasping wastrels of the land,” as Governor Tom McCall would call these greedy SOBs. You work for us, stop working against us.  

 M. Riley lives in an unincorporated area of Lincoln County.


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