Property rights vs. neighborhoods?

One of the hottest topics in Lincoln County right now is that of short-term rentals, and in particular, whether or not they should be allowed in residential zones.

Short-term rentals (STRs), also known as vacation rental dwellings (VRDs), have been debated for years, and the discussion generally boils down to the right of people to use their homes as STRs if they so choose versus the livability of residential neighborhoods for full-time residents. STRs have contributed to traffic congestion, noise, litter and other problems in what were once quiet neighborhoods.

The most recent controversy in this arena stems from the efforts of a group called 15neighborhoods to reduce and eventually eliminate STRs in low-density residential zones in unincorporated areas of the county. 15neighborhoods has been striving to achieve its goals by gathering signatures on a petition to place the matter on the ballot in May. This effort is being countered by a group known as VIAOregon, a vacation rental industry association that organized last year to oppose the petition.

We learned this week that 15neighborhoods chose not to file its petition with the county clerk’s office by the Wednesday deadline for the May ballot, instead saying they would wait until the November election in order to “support the efforts of the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners.”

The county commissioners have been wrestling with this issue for a long time. About five years ago, they began working on an ordinance to require licensing of STRs, and such an ordinance was passed, which also imposed certain restrictions. But some say those restrictions don’t go far enough to adequately address the problems.

The county commissioners held a lengthy workshop on new proposed regulations in January and received a ton of input from constituents. A second public hearing is planned but has not yet been set.

We believe there needs to be compromise on both sides of this issue. Property owners should have the right to use their homes as STRs if they choose to do so, and we think they should continue to be allowed in residential zones. It’s important to preserve property rights, and one can’t argue that STRs provide a fairly significant economic benefit in Lincoln County.

But at the same time, we can’t turn a blind eye to the problems STRs sometimes cause in neighborhoods. Enforcement is critical, and we hope the county commissioners will take a long, hard look at how to properly address that when they move forward on amendments to their ordinance.

Bottom line, no one is going to be completely satisfied on this one. But it’s not an issue that will simply go away. The county commissioners have some tough decisions ahead of them, and we hope they carefully consider what’s in the best interests of all parties as they move forward with this serious matter.


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