Open letter to our Lincoln County commissioners


In preparation for the short-term rental (STR) workshop scheduled for Jan. 12 at 6 p.m., 15neighborhoods has submitted the following questions to the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners for clarification and response:

On Nov. 16, 2020, County Counsel Wayne Belmont prepared a memorandum to the board of commissioners outlining progress made in the board’s comprehensive review of licensing standards, and proposed modifications to the STR licensing program. Several of Counsel Belmont’s recommendations were met favorably by the commissioners, with only a couple of topics needing further review. Counsel Belmont was prepared to draft an amendment.

Question: What is the current status of Counsel Belmont’s anticipated summary document; why are we starting all over again with another series of workshops?

The public has been told that the sheriff’s office now has new software up and running to track STR licenses, violations and provide useful data.

Question: Can you provide examples of the reports available to the public and advise when a link for the public to access data and reports will be provided?

The community has been told that you are working on countywide and geographic caps on the number of licenses that will be granted in unincorporated Lincoln County.

Question: Can you share those numbers and give an example of how you would apply those caps geographically by neighborhood?

New occupancy limits were proposed for STRs on both septic and municipal sewer systems with talk about making enforcement of the limits “much easier.”

Question: How are you going to enforce occupancies when the sheriff’s office will not enter an STR to verify the numbers?

Compliance and enforcement changes were proposed based upon data tracking with the new software and possibly holding the STR management companies accountable.

Question: Beyond tracking, have you established a fine schedule that would afford the sheriff’s office the ability to write a ticket? There has been much talk about how the owner of an STR pays a lot of transient room tax when in fact the renter pays the TRT on top of the rental rate to support the tourist industry.

Question: Can you report the total annual dollar amount renters of STRs (in unincorporated Lincoln County only) pay in TRT?

Resolution 20-4-3B temporarily suspended licensing of STRs for 60 days. Within the resolution, existing licenses are allowed to be assigned/transferred to a new owner. This provision was done without discussion and was only to be for 60 days. During the suspension, the only way to procure a STR license is to buy an existing STR and have the existing license assigned/ transferred within 60 days of the purchase of the property.

Question: Where did the request to add this provision to Resolution 20-4-3B initiate? In this one area, the resolution is in direct opposition to LCC 4.420. Why was this provision included in the resolution without public input and why will it continue to be allowed until June 1st 2021?

A fundamental question still exists around the definition of an STR as a business, which the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has recently ruled upon. Businesses are clearly not allowed in R-1, R-1A and R-2 zoned neighborhoods. Home occupations however, are allowed and defined in detail, along with the need for a conditional use permit for a home occupation business.

Question: Why does the County not enforce the county zoning laws that prohibit businesses in residentially zoned neighborhoods? Further, if the county is viewing the STR as a home occupation rather than a business, why is a conditional use permit (which would allow public testimony) not required when licensing STR businesses?

Barb and Bob Sulek are members of the 15neighborhoods steering committee (www.15neighborhoods.com). They reside in South Beach.

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