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Short-term rental businesses are now allowed to reopen in Lincoln City, and the City Council answered some of the questions being asked at a recent meeting.

On May 29, the City Council met for a special meeting to discuss several topics, mostly regarding lodging being permitted to open on June 1. Prior to discussions, Mayor Dick Anderson spoke briefly about a County meeting he had recently attended, which detailed the Phase II criteria of the Governors Reopening Oregon plan. According to Anderson, Lincoln County is unlikely to qualify for Phase II due to the inability to trace the latest COVID-19 (coronavirus) cases in the county. Anderson also noted that the county’s unemployment rate is still among the highest at 26 percent.

The Council then discussed some of the lodging criteria, such as the 24-hour rule, which was met by some confusion for short-term rental owners. The current language states, “A minimum 24 hours hold be maintained between check out and the time the room is cleaned and put out for rental again.”

The City put out a clarification of the requirement stating: “For Hotels, Motels and Vacation Rental Dwellings (VRD), when a guest(s) check out of a room that room must remain vacant of guest(s) and housekeeping staff for a 24 hour period. Once this 24-hour period has passed then housekeeping, staff are able to enter the room to clean according to the housekeeping requirements listed in Exhibit A of County Order 5-20-136. Once housekeeping has finished, the room can then be rented again.”

Visit www.lincolncity.org to access County Order 5-20-136 and lodging industry-reopening information.

The Council then discussed possible ways to make sure businesses and owners are following these new requirements. Councilor Riley Hoagland was hoping they’d be able to develop a way employees can make complaints safely and discreetly.

“A lot of (employees) are fearful. They don’t want to speak up and maybe lose their job,” Hoagland said. “I want to see somehow, we as the city, step up our enforcement.” Hoagland suggested putting out an info-graphic on city social media for employees to understand the process of making complaints for STR owners. Lincoln City Police Chief Jerry Palmer suggested putting OSHA’s phone number on worker guideline flyers to provide the resource to make safety complaints easily, if needed. The council approved the motion to send out such educational information.

The council then dove deeper into enforcement of safety violations for STR owners. City Attorney Richard Appicello detailed some of the penalties at the state level, public health level and City level that can be administered.

- Violation of the Governor’s orders can result in a Class C Misdemeanor.

- OHA requirements violations can result in a investigate

- City code is a Class A violation with a $2,000 fine for each offense, for any violation of the county’s STR order.

Chief Palmer noted that enforcement has its challenges, as they learned during the reopening of Chinook Winds Casino Resort last week, which resulted in numerous calls to the LCPD.

“The challenge from the law enforcement perspective… we have to have a date, a time and place for probable cause,” Palmer said. “If we have to cite, then we have to decide who to issue the citation. There’s a lot of moving parts to this to decide who gets the citation. Hopefully it won’t come to that.”

Palmer noted that any violation complaints should be made to police non-emergency line.

Discussion then turned to the topic of face coverings for the general public. Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Ken Murphy spoke to the City Council about whether businesses should be requiring face coverings. Murphy said the CDC has been recommended wearing masks from the very beginning stages and that legally, business can require customers to wear masks.

Several City Councilors said they would be supportive of a city ordinance requiring masks in public spaces.

“If we can, we should make it mandatory,” Councilor Diana Hinton said. “I worry about our residents. We have, as a county, been very good about keeping distance and wearing masks. I’ve notice that as more people come in to town… there’s no social distancing, not even mask wearing. June 1 we will be seeing a lot more people here. We have to protect both our residents and visitors.”

Councilor Rick Mark said he’d also support a face-covering rule and suggested creating more signage at city entry points that encouraged visitors to wear their face coverings.

“I’d like to see a message like, if your coming to Lincoln City, bring your masks and we expect you to wear them,” Mark said.

Although supportive of the ideas, Mayor Anderson said there would be many challenges with a required face-covering ordinance.

“The enforcement issue has to be mindboggling. I’m a big fan of creating signage and education, but I have a problem with creating an ordinance that we cannot enforce,” Anderson said.

The conversation was then tabled, and Anderson earlier noted the County Commissioners would be discussing face-coverings at their upcoming meeting.

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