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Statement on Short Term Rentals

The following is Commissioner Claire Hall's statement on

Short Term Rentals in Lincoln County--as posted on Facebook.

 

We’ve been wrestling with the issues associated with Short Term Rentals (STRs) for several years now. Let me cut through the clutter of noise and make one thing absolutely clear: I stand with locals. I want to work with my colleagues to find ways to further limit and curtail the number of licenses.I do this because I believe its important to protect our precious housing stock for full-time ownership or full-time rentals.

When we first started this journey, I tried to advocate for a balanced approach, putting locals first but trying to find a reasonable way to manage the industry’s worst impacts. However, despite their claims that they don’t oppose “reasonable regulation,” their continuing lawsuits against us show otherwise, and a consensus emerged on our board that further tweaks in the ordinance were necessary. It’s also important to note that the vast majority of property tax bills are going to addresses outside of Lincoln County.

Unfortunately, we were unable to move forward with new initiatives for a year due to the citizen initiative being challenged in court. Now that that’s behind us, we’ve taken several steps since the beginning of the year to bring further accountability to STR operators.

We updated our nuisance ordinance to allow us to impose higher fines on violators and, for the first time, we have the option of daily fines as well. We also doubled license fees, and I will continue to advocate for regular increases to better reflect the true impacts of STRs. We also established a hearings officer position to allow speedier resolution of STR cases since the courts can be slow.

We’ve had a new building inspector on the job for a little over a year, and he’s actively pursuing owners of failing systems in STRs. We’re doing all of this fully aware that it will have a negative impact on our bottom line. Our transient room tax is trending toward a twenty-five percent decrease in transient room tax revenues for the current fiscal year, and as the number of STR licenses decline, that trend is likely to continue as more licenses are discontinued.

 

A number of ideas have been suggested to me for further regulation, including imposing area caps on neighborhoods with a high concentration of STRs; distance requirements; a lottery system; requiring any new licenses go to county residents only; and requiring all future license holders to live in the county. I hope we can work with 15neighborhoods, the group that has been a strong voice for local communities.

All of these ideas, and others, will need to be vetted by our legal team and be supported by at least one other commissioner. I’m a problem solver. This is a complex issue, but for me, it comes down to what I said at the beginning: I stand with locals.

 

As I reflect on this further, I realize how the STR business has fundamentally changed over the past 30-plus years. Then, people who had purchased a vacation/future retirement home which they rented part-time to help with the mortgage. Properties were either managed by owners or local companies. All of these people had a stake in the quality of life of their neighborhoods. As time passed, people started building mega-homes specifically as vacation rentals with large bed capacities. STRs became an investment for their owners, and the local managers gave way to international companies.

 

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