Our county commissioners will soon be considering changes to the vacation rental permit regulations. Meanwhile, applications for vacation rentals are pouring in — seven in one week, as published on May 17. That’s 364 homes per year, if it continues at that rate, converted to vacation rentals. Under current rules, it is virtually impossible for the hearing examiner to deny a vacation rental permit application.
Islanders should be watching carefully to see how the commissioners decide to balance the interests of local residents in safe, quiet residential communities with neighbors who know and support each other against the interests of local and national vacation rental companies and nonresident property owners whose goal is to maximize profits.
But as islanders watch the process of more and more properties taken out of the already limited rental pool, and more and more homes converted from residential to for-profit use, we should be aware that if the commissioners veer too far in favor of commercial interests and against renters and stable neighborhoods, we have an option. If the commissioners do not adequately represent our interests, we have the option of a local initiative to impose the rules and restrictions which we as residents find strike the correct balance between neighborhoods and profit. I hope that local organizations with the ability to propose and support voter initiatives will be watching carefully, and will be prepared, if the need arises, to act to protect our island values and way of life.