6 Replies Latest reply: Oct 1, 2019 12:41 PM by martyp RSS

    Community organizing against vacation rentals

    orcas.island.linda New Member

      We live on a small island, accessible only by ferry.  Recently, local residents have become very opposed to vacation rentals and are organizing to pass various sorts of limitations on them:  everything from banning them altogether to doing things like putting a cap on new permits, not allowing permits to transfer when a property owner sells the property (which would put me in serious jeopardy as I have a guest cottage on my property that I rent out and this option would make my property much more difficult to sell, I fear), limiting where vacation rentals could be located, upping septic and water requirements to be so high as to make it very difficult to qualify for a permit and so on.  In order to galvanize the community, I believe the organizers of this movement are using inaccurate data to scare people about the future and we (my husband and I) are certainly looking for ways to communicate our disagreement with the data, at the very least.  (Letters to the editor, comments on the facebook page, even trying to contact other vacation renter owners on our island to form our own coalition to fight this movement.) 


      I admit that there could be a good argument against "over tourism," but in many ways I really disagree with what some say about that.  My husband and I really enjoy hosting people from all over the state, country and even the world and we believe that just because we live in a wonderful place doesn't mean we own it exclusively. 


      At any rate, I'm wondering if any of you have seen this sort of thing happen in your community.  Have any of you fought it?  What ideas do you have? 


      Thank you ahead. 

        • Re: Community organizing against vacation rentals
          db.meyer Senior Contributor

          I recommend that you study (via Google Search terms) the various other cities and locations in WA State that have already addressed the STR issues and regulations.  There is much that you as an individual can do, first educate yourself on the economic/positive impact that short-term term rentals have in your location, current zoning regulations on residential use (it's really not a commercial use in spite of the "transient" nature vs. long-term rentals of 30+ days), review your location's complaint logs (doubtful if any on STRs) regarding noise, nuisance, garbage, etc., and post here again if you have any further questions. Once you have "educated" yourself and then your local officials (approach them on a pro-active basis) on the "positive" benefits of bringing guests/tourism to your location (sales, lodging taxes, restaurants, local businesses, local cleaners, maintenance, landscapers, etc.), that STRs are typically well maintained and also beautify the area vs run-down long-term rentals, etc.) and that STRs ARE allowed (and regulated) in most WA State locations, and further regulated in this WA State recent legislation, the pro's outweigh the cons': Washington State Passes Short-Term Rental Legislation

          • Re: Community organizing against vacation rentals
            green_mango Active Contributor

            Reach out to AVORA - they do a huge amount of advocating for short term rentals and have great data, packets, info etc...  no sense in reinventing the wheel.  Good luck!

            • Re: Community organizing against vacation rentals
              martyp Contributor

              Best of luck to you.  I hate to say it but luck is what you will need.  Communities are taking up arms against short term rentals.  This happened in my county and it did not turn out well.  There was a public hearing and the room was stuffed; people were standing along the walls; and people were out in the halls.  There was a portion of the meeting where people of both sides were allowed to talk.  The two sides alternated in 15 minute segments each. The side in favor of the new restrictions only had 4 speakers and the 4 of them combined did not fill their first 15 minute segment.  The side that opposed the ordinance had a long line of speakers the they consumed a couple of hours.  In spite of the opposition to the ordinance, the board passed the extremely restrictive ordinance.

              The ordinance was so restrictive that it virtually killed Short Term Rental in our county.  Each subdivision was listed as a "Zoning Overlay".  In order to be allowed to short term rent, 80% of the property owners in the subdivision had to vote to approve short term rental.  You can't even get 80% of the property owners to participate in as vote

              This is an example of why it is an absolute necessity for VRBO to allow owner to owner communication. 


              There was one clause in the Short Term Rental Ordinance that created a small loop-hole.  The county attorneys said that the county couldn't accept county hotel tax in the past and then tell these owners that they could no longer rent short term in the future. The county added a clause that grandfathered any owners who had paid the county hotel tax for the last 12 consecutive months.  Not many of had paid this for two reasons: 1. it wasn't clear that short term rentals were hotels; 2. in the past, the county told owners that they did not need to pay hotel tax on short term rental homes. ... I was one of those who had paid exactly 12 months of hotel tax.


              My advice to you.  Make sure your taxes are paid, including any hotel tax.  If there is a hotel tax that you haven't paid, fill out the forms and pay it in arears as well as any late penalties.  ... get a county business license for your business if you don't already have one (your rental IS a business).


              Best of luck.