YACHATS — It’s possibly a sign of things to come, but it’s most certainly a sign of the times.
Following a public hearing last week, the Yachats Planning Commission voted 5-1 to approve a conditional use permit for the ownership group of the city’s Fireside Lodge and Overleaf Motel to create a five-space RV area on 1.89 acres of the property in order provide housing for the resorts’ workforce.
During the public hearing on the matter at the planning commission’s June 15 work session and regular meeting, applicant Drew Roslund, owner and general manager of the Fireside and Overleaf, provided reasons he sought the permit.
Roslund began by describing the “deleterious effects” the COVID-19 pandemic had on the resorts’ staff during the last 15 months, as well as the limitations the lodges continue to face as they struggle to fill out staff with the area’s busy season upon us. Roslund used an example of two employees he said worked their final shifts for the company that day, who were forced to move from the area due to a lack of sufficient long-term housing after their Yachats residence became a vacation rental and the resorts provided them 45 days of housing.
“I look to this project to be a temporary, creative solution to the workforce housing shortage in Yachats,” he said. “The Overleaf and Fireside and our current staff do not have the luxury to wait for Yachats to work through the workforce housing crisis, which may take many years to resolve. I need to find an interim solution for our workforce."
Roslund additionally told the planning commission that residents of his proposed RV area would be well vetted, with a contractual obligation to be a “good neighbor,” that the project would cost him about $80,000 to develop and would assist both the resorts and the city by allowing them to rent more rooms, contributing more money to the city’s general fund through transient room tax money.
“The Overleaf and Fireside provide the following: jobs for community residents, return on investment for the owners through the TRT — the hotels/vacation rentals provide about 90 percent of the city’s general fund, and our businesses contribute to a thriving Yachats community and support many objectives within the Yachats comprehensive plan,” he said.
In written testimony provided to the planning commission prior to the hearing, Norm and Shelley Cimon, who listed addresses in La Grande and Yachats in their letter to contract city planner and interim city manager Katherine Guenther, stated several reasons why they stand against the temporary housing effort.
“We question the wisdom of granting a conditional use permit based solely on the individual need for more workers,” they wrote. “The changing reality of growth in Yachats demands that the code be explicit and fairly administered throughout the city. We also believe that it is not the city’s job to grant individual permits based solely on the arbitrary support for a specific business model. Moreover, this proposal does not provide for hiring local residents. It fails to address that citywide issue. Such a piecemeal approach will not serve the community that is Yachats.”
Yachats resident Cheri Capron spoke in favor of the project and celebrated both Roslund and his approach to solving a workforce housing issue in Yachats compounded by the effects of the pandemic.
“I believe Drew is someone who will do what he says he’s going to do, and I believe that family really cares about Yachats and this community, and I want to applaud the kind of creative thinking that’s going into supporting not only our workforce, but our businesses,” she stated during the public comment period.
Commissioners Ariana Carlson, Christine Orchard, Helen Anderson, chair Lance Bloch and vice chair Loren Dickson voted in favor of the project; commissioner Jacqueline Danos submitted the lone “nay” vote.
Approval, which can be appealed to the Yachats City Council within 120 days, came with caveats, including limiting the permit’s life to two years, opposed to the five years requested by Roslund, and capping the maximum occupancy at 10 people.