Homing in on the Oregon coast

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

You could call this town the second-home capital of Oregon. It used to be only a wide place on the coastal Highway 101 in mid-Oregon. But now, after two decades of incorporation with five neighboring communities, Lincoln City's 55 miles along the Oregon coast has emerged as a growth area for two kinds of real estate: vacation and retirement.

Rand McNally's Places Rated Guide lists the area as No. 2 (out of 107) after San Diego for climatic mildness. Although the annual rainfall averages 63 inches, 70 percent of it comes in the gray, early-winter months.

Not long ago, residents of Oregon's larger cities -- Portland, Eugene, and Salem -- began to build ocean-side second homes along Oregon's fresh-air coast.

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In the beginning, it wasn't easy. The state's highway systems were patchy. Today's new state-long oceanfront highway hadn't been finished.

But now easy access and direct connections bring in-state residents to the coast in a couple of hours. Only the Grants Pass area, still isolated by mountain wilderness, is without roads direct to the coast.

Ocean beach recreation has been one of the principal reasons for Lincoln City's development. There are 11 city access routes to the beach and four close-by state parks.

Newcomers to Lincoln City have built in all the likely places: along the coastal bluffs, beside streams that empty into the sea, and around the 640-acre Devils Lake, behind Highway 101.

``Property here,'' says one local real estate agent, ``has always been reasonable in price -- probably because there is so much of it readily available . . . and there's quite a bit of ongoing new construction.''

The median cost of housing in Lincoln City is $69,700. Property taxes run $1,087, the lowest in the county. Utilities average $786.

Lincoln City, like all of Oregon, is protected against urban sprawl. Statewide goals mandate that all cities and counties must have land development plans that are approved by the Land Conservation and Development Commission. Lincoln City's outline was approved by this agency in July 1984.

Although single-family second homes are predominant in the area, there is a growing demand toward buying or renting condos.

Some of the larger Lincoln City beach resorts are made up of absentee owner units rented out by a management pool. Local advertising often highlights the projected income that can be derived from this type of investment.

Condo prices in Lincoln City range from as little as $35,000 to as much as $250,000. The Chamber of Commerce figures indicate the 1,500 hotel-motel units in the area have been maintaining an average occupancy rate of 59 percent.

The low cost of utilities, thanks to hydroelectric sources, is one lure for retirees. Other retiree draws include the state's tax system. There is no income tax and no state sales tax, except a 6 percent figure on motel-hotel charges. But taxes on cigarettes and state-controlled liquor are higher than those elsehwere.

Lincoln City retirement living is not confined to any special locale. Real estate agents say retirees have fitted into all sectors of the community, from modern beach-bluff and ``mine shaft''-style homes to semipermanent mobile units around the shores of Devils Lake. The acreage in this latter area, once only a weekend recreation site, is now almost filled with full-time residents.

Lincoln City's population growth rate is estimated at about 3 percent this year. That means its total population estimate of 13,000 for the year 2000 isn't going to crowd the area by any standards.

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