The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners along with the county’s City Councils convened May 14 to revisit their countywide short-term rental order.
On April 27, the Commissioners, Mayors and Council members extended their original order through May 31, which closed short-term rentals (STR’s) such as hotels, B&B’s, vacation rentals, RV parks and private campgrounds to rentals less than 30 days. In light of Governor Kate Brown’s announcement yesterday, stating Lincoln County was permitted to enter Phase I of her Reopen Oregon plan, the county officials met with the goal of coming to a unified decision on whether they would like to stick to their original date of reopening STR’s on June 1, extending that date, or shortening it.
Unfortunately for the Board of Commissioners, the county’s cities had differing opinions on what to do.
The Commissioners began by giving their thoughts on what date would be best for opening STR’s.
“I feel like June 1 is an appropriate date to stick with,” Commissioner Claire Hall said. “The fact that we are reopening other businesses tomorrow, this will give these businesses some time to prepare.”
Commissioner Doug Hunt was also in favor of the June 1 reopening, but said he’d like to exclude vacation rental dwellings (VRD’s), and have them open at a later date.
“It’s complicated,” Hunt said. “One of the worst outcomes would be a surge and a forced shutdown of the county. Until we have better scientific data I propose a gradual reopening.
“My guiding principle is and has been that the loss of a loved one is far more devastating than an economic loss.”
Commissioner Hall disagreed with Hunt’s notion to exclude VRD’s from reopening.
“I don’t see any good justification from a scientific standpoint to treat vacation rentals differently than other lodging facilities,” Hall said. “My vote is to begin a phased opening of all lodging on June 1.”
Commissioner Chair Kaety Jacobson was also in favor of having all lodging reopen on June 1.
The city councils were then given the opportunity to speak and give their two cents on the proposed reopening date. Newport Mayor Dean Sawyer, who is a homeshare owner, said whatever date is decided upon, he would be waiting an additional two weeks to resume renting it out.
“I agree with the June 1 date. We need a buffer between May 15 and June 1 for the local restaurants and shops in town,” Sawyer said. “I also think the vacation rental should be the same as hotels and RV parks. If there’s any further breakout, I would encourage us to all reconvene again to make a decision.”
For the Lincoln City City Council, although they were all in agreement on opening all STR’s at the same time, they all seemed to have differing opinions on when that date might be.
“People will be coming here the next few weeks,” Councilor Rick Mark said. “I am concerned with people not wearing masks. We might be putting an unfair burden on local law enforcement. People from the valley are going to be coming down here whether the hotels are open or not, that means the virus will be coming down here and people will be getting sick.”
Mark, along with Councilors Mitch Parsons, Diana Hinton and Mayor Dick Anderson, were all in favor of the June 1 reopen date. However, Councilors Judy Casper and Diane Kusz were in favor of a May 29 date, and Councilor Riley Hoagland wanted a June 4 date to coincide with the Governor’s Phased Reopening plan.
After the discussion regarding the reopening date, the meeting shifted to restrictions for STR’s once they are reopened. The Commissioners detailed the following restrictions that they plan to set in place:
- Employees and owners must wear face coverings and guests will be encouraged to wear face coverings.
- Remote check in will be a requirement.
- Room service will not be permitted.
- Pools and spas will be closed.
The county officials discussed two restrictions in greater detail, which appeared in the original draft. The first was a limit on how many people would be permitted per room or per VRD unit. They originally discussed a two person per bed limit and no more than four people per room in hotels and motels. Additionally, they had a limit of six people per VRD unit. That restriction was changed to what the STR license permits.
The second restriction discussed was regarding turnaround time for a room or unit. After discussion, the county officials decided to implement a 24-hour minimum turnaround time for each unit.
Following talks regarding restrictions, the officials took a vote on the new drafted proposal, which included the June 1 reopening date.
The proposal passed unanimously among the County Commissioners and Lincoln City City Council. Yachats also passed the June 1 proposal. Waldport did not attend the meeting and already voted for a May 23 opening date. Toledo, Depoe Bay and Siletz also did not participate in the vote. Finally, Newport approved the proposal, but with a May 23 reopening date instead of a June 1 date.