GEARHART — The city urged second homeowners over the weekend to stay at their permanent homes during government restrictions on travel because of the coronavirus.
In a blog post, the city wrote that it received several complaints from residents asking if the city has the ability to “kick out second homeowners and their families” who are staying in Gearhart instead of their homes in Portland, Seattle, California and other places.
The city does not have the legal authority to take that type of action. But the city does “highly encourage” everyone to follow Gov. Kate Brown’s stay-at-home order.
“We wanted to just clarify the spirit of the governor’s order, which is for folks not to make trips and to stay at home,” Mayor Matt Brown said.
“But we also wanted folks to know that if somebody does come and use their second home and wants to stay down here, there’s nothing the city can do to not allow that. We have to make sure we have respect for people that choose to use their second home. And from what we’ve noticed in Gearhart, people have been very, very responsible with that.”
City Administrator Chad Sweet said the message is also intended to remind people to recognize the impact they may have on resources and hospital capacity when staying in their second homes.
“I think a lot of vacation communities around the United States have been inundated a little bit more than normal because people with their second homes want to get away to beautiful areas where it may be less crowded,” Sweet said. “But they are bringing a certain amount of impact with them. And can we cope with that?”
Brown and Sweet said the city’s post was prompted after concerns from residents over two homes that had large parties last weekend.
“These are very few and far between things,” Brown said. “The majority of folks have been amazing. They’re practicing social distancing, they’re not overcrowding.
“But what we did see last weekend as well is an influx of people coming into Gearhart from Washington that wanted to use the beaches for clamming. So ... that stirred up a lot of emotions with a lot of the local people.”
Brown said he doesn’t want residents to confuse people coming for a daytrip with people living in their second homes. About 40% of the homes in Gearhart are occupied year-round, and about 60% are second homes or vacation rentals.
“We want people to understand we’re not going to check people’s IDs that come into town if they don’t own a home in Gearhart, those kind of things,” Brown said. But he said he wants people to continue using good judgment and said the city will enforce social distancing guidelines.
Brown said most people received the post well. He said homeowners who expressed concerns about the post may not have read the whole message.
Katy Qualman, of Portland, said she has owned a home in Gearhart for about 40 years. She said since her husband has retired, they have started to spend more time in Gearhart. She said they are active members of the community, good stewards of their home and members of the homeowners association.
She believes the city made a “serious error in judgment” in publishing the post.
“I was astonished and I was hurt and I’m very angry,” Qualman said. “I just can’t believe that the city of Gearhart didn’t say, ‘Well, let’s talk about this. What’s happening and who’s doing what here, and let’s see if we can get this straightened out.’ No — they sent out this thing and I’m really hurt and offended.”
She felt the post was a quick reaction to a small group of people targeting second homeowners.
“These people are happy for us to pay our taxes and contribute to the fire and police and road repair and do all of that — that’s fine — but don’t come here,” she said.
“This is a national emergency, but ... the real problem comes when people start drawing lines, making divisions and excluding people. We’re all in this together, we should all do everything we can to make it work.”