As a lifelong coastal resident, I find it disappointing and embarrassing that such a draconian and discriminatory ballot measure like 21-203 will find its way to the polls in November.
Imagine yourself at home with your family when you’re interrupted by some frantic knocking at your door. It’s your nosy neighbor: you know the one, the neighbor who can be seen peering through their blinds whenever an unfamiliar vehicle ventures down the street. The neighbor who devotes most of their waking hours to keeping up with everyone else’s business. “We noticed that you were gone last weekend,” they mention when you open the door, “and there was a vehicle in your driveway with out of state license plates. What in the world is going on over here? Don’t you know that this is a residential neighborhood?” If that sounds ridiculous to you, it is. You worked hard to purchase your home, and it’s absolutely none of your neighbor’s business who you allow to stay there, whether for one night or a year.
The central Oregon coast has long been viewed as a welcoming and friendly place for all who would like to come take in its natural beauty, enjoy its amazing local cuisine and experience all of the wonderful things that beach life has to oﬀer. Eliminating vacation rental homes in R-1, R-1A, and R-2 zoning would eﬀectively build walls around all of our popular vacation destination communities within the county, including Bayshore, Surfland, Otter Rock, Beverly Beach, Gleneden Beach and so on. Not only would this be exclusionary, but downright discriminatory as well. Larger families with limited income (which research has shown often includes a disproportionate number of minorities) may not be able to aﬀord multiple hotel rooms per evening to accommodate their group, not to mention the fact that there aren’t an unlimited number of hotel rooms in our community to begin with. Should we deny them the opportunity to visit our community simply because supporters of 21-203 don’t want “those people” in their neighborhoods?
Proponents of 21-203 claim that the negative financial impact of the measure will be minimal. This is also a ridiculous argument. The transient room tax, which has been generated by these county VRDs, has translated to an incredible amount of money for our county, not to mention that it also benefits our local businesses that visiting tourists shop at and dine at during their stays. There are two buckets of money that our county has to draw from: one is filled by local residents from tax, bond and assessment revenues; the other is filled by non-residents (tourists) by things like the transient room tax and other local taxes. Unfortunately the other local taxes (restaurant, gas, etc.) aﬀect local residents, too. The transient room tax is ideal in that it is imposed only on visiting tourists.
Common sense dictates that when you stop filling one of the buckets, the other bucket has to absorb the diﬀerence, so in this case the financial burden will shift from 100 percent tourism dollars to 100 percent local resident dollars. We need to find more ways for tourism dollars to reduce the burden on local residents, not eliminate those income sources. Newport recently imposed strict regulations to reduce the number of VRDs within its city limits and must now raise food and gas taxes to make up for the shortfall. Isn’t it already expensive enough to live in Lincoln County?
Please help us protect private home ownership rights by voting no on this measure in November. Doing so will allow us to continue to benefit from tourism dollars versus shifting the financial liability to local residents. It will also help our county to maintain its long-standing reputation of being a friendly and welcoming place for others to visit and enjoy.
Freddy Saxton is the president of the Lincoln County Board of Realtors. He lives in South Beach.