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Lincoln County Commissioners freeze short-term rental applications as legal battle brews

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Short-term vacation rentals are popular lodging options along the Oregon coast, but some neighbors say the units bring congestion and disruptions to residential neighborhoods.

Lincoln County Commissioners voted Friday to stop taking applications from people hoping to turn their property into a short-term vacation rental.

Lincoln County voters approved an initiative last month that would phase out short-term vacation rentals in some unincorporated areas of the county. But a group of vacation rental owners sued to block it, saying it violated state law.

A Lincoln County judge put the measure on hold pending a preliminary hearing later this month. That led county commissioners on Friday to vote unanimously to enact a temporary moratorium on new rental applications while the courts heard the lawsuit.

Commissioner Claire Hall noted before the vote that she was opposed to the initiative when it was on the ballot.

“But, the voters spoke," said Hall. "They spoke rather overwhelmingly.”

Opponents of vacation rentals say they cause problems for neighbors and drive up the cost of housing in a region where supply is limited. Prior to the meeting, many submitted public comments urging commissioners to enact a moratorium on new short-term rentals while the lawsuit winds its way through the court system.

"This is the only recourse county citizens have to protect further degradation of our single family residential neighborhoods," wrote Tim and Traci Burks, who said they live in an unincorporated section of the county.

Rental owners tried without success to convince commissioners to continue to accept new applications for licenses.

"Sweet Home Vacation Getaways ... will be harmed if you impose a new moratorium," said Jamie Michel, who spoke on behalf of the Yachats-based company which acts as a booking agent for short-term rental properties.

Lincoln County Circuit Court Judge Amanda Benjamin has scheduled a hearing in the lawsuit on Dec. 6 at 2 p.m.

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December, 2018. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
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