County's Cabins Irk Private Park Owners
By the end of the month, Douglas County in southwest Oregon will have two, semi-furnished cabins available to tourists in Winchester Bay and that makes private lodge owners in the area mad, The Umpqua Post reported.
The Douglas County Parks and Recreation Department is installing two park-model cabins, for several reasons — the county wants to offer more options to visitors and they need to help out their own bottom line.
The portable cabins are equipped with a toilet, shower, gas cook top, a small refrigerator and heater. They will have basic furnishings including a kitchen table and futons which can sleep up to four people comfortably, said Gary Groth, director of Douglas County Parks and Land Departments.
“The idea is to give people more of a choice when they come to the area,” he said. “It gives people more a variety of options. In a lot of ways these are not comparable to vacation rentals.”
The county contends the cabins are RVs which are commonly found in Windy Cove year round. Vacation rental owners disagree and say the cabins are permanent structures which will hamper private business.
Private Enterprise Response
“Anyone who rents one of those isn’t going to rent from us,” said Art Dever, owner of Dockside Vacation Rentals in Winchester Bay. “I can understand if those cabins were located in some real remote area, but they’re not. They’re doing this right in town.”
Joe Coyne, president of the Winchester Bay Merchant’s Association, said the county-owned cabins are in direct competition with the private sector, a sign of over-involvement by the government. Coyne has no vested interest in whether the cabins are there, but said he is concerned for the merchants in the area.
“It’s a private versus public issue,” he said. “I’m against the concept. Government should not be involved in affecting private businesses.”
Over the years, the county has interfered with private business in several ways, merchants said. The county has established its own campground with direct access to the dunes, has issued peddler permits for out-of-town businesses who bank on all-terrain vehicle rentals to summer tourists and now the cabins.
Greg Hoover, owner of Discovery Point Resort and RV Park, has been negatively impacted by such establishments.
“We’ve lost thousands because of the campground and we lost $12,000 last year from the ATV rentals,” he said. “The county is utilizing my tax dollars to go in direct competition with me. That’s wrong. They’ve taken money out of my pocket, yet they still want their tax dollars, they want their piece of pie.”
Groth acknowledged that the county does not pay taxes, but said they do pay for sewer and water and have paid a hook-up fee for each of the cabins.
“We’re paying the same rate as a single family house,” he said.
Groth said the county-owned cabins are not competition, just more choices. He said the park model cabins cost $23,000 each and were made in Eastern Oregon.
“They’re bare bones,” he said. “People will need to bring their own bedding, dishes and utensils. They’re nothing like the other vacation rentals around here.”
Cabins will be available for rent by the public this month for $70 a night. Money generated from the rental fee will be put back into the county’s budget.
“Our county’s Parks and Rec budget has been significantly reduced over the years,” Groth said. “The money from rental fees will be put back into this fund so we can continue to maintain services from this department.”
Events such as DuneFest and Kool Coastal Nights are what some of the area’s lodging facilities depend on for their own bottom lines. Reservations are booked months in advance.
Yelena Bogatyreva, owner of Winchester Bay Inn, said she receives reservations for events such as Kool Coastal Nights, held at the end of August, beginning in fall.
“I am completely full for Aug. 24 and 25,” she said. “People call eight months in advance to reserve a room for that event.”
The county will also depend on tourist events.
“There’s a minimum of a two-night stay on weekends, holidays and during special events like DuneFest,” Groth said.
Coyne agrees that renting the cabins will help balance the budget, but has concerns with what will happen next.
“Sure, it’s a great way, but where does it stop?” he asked. “If they could build a Walmart over there to help balance the budget, is that a good idea too?”
For now, Groth said it’s just the two cabins.
Merchants and owners aren’t too trusting.
“I object to them being in the lodging business,” Dever said. “Where does it stop? When are they going to put in a restaurant or a hardware store?”