An open letter to the commissioners elect| Letter

I know you’ve got a lot on your plate right now with the election, COVID-19 situation, massive budget problems, etc., so, I’ll confine my comments to one subject: vacation rentals.

Having lived on Orcas continuously since 1975, I feel I am almost qualified to be called an “islander.” I am writing to you because you are now responsible for the next term and making county policy decisions.

I am well aware that I could not have prospered, raised my family and enjoyed a high quality of life here were it not for tourism and growth. However, I do think that things have gotten out of balance when my adult children and the “kids” they grew up with find it difficult, if not impossible to find rental housing (at any price) nor an affordable place to buy. The proliferation of vacation rentals (many of them owned by corporate, off-island entities) has left little available for those of us who actually live and work here.

I urge you to bring back a balance to the situation.

Yes, we need vacation rentals but we already have more than enough of them. Yes, we need tourism but we already have more than enough of that, too. We really don’t need to promote tourism — we’re already well known around the world.

I hope in the coming months and years you will do the right thing. I urge you to tackle the vacation rental issue soon and put in place some of the regulations that have been instituted in other popular tourist destinations throughout the world. I know you are very aware of the research that the vacation rental working group has been doing. There is a whole menu of ideas—limits—that might work to help bring matters back into balance.

As a teenager, I spent a couple of summers in Maine. I know first-hand what happened to Nantucket Island since then — it has become a playground only for the rich. People who work there cannot afford to live there. Please don’t let that happen to our beloved Orcas Island!

Mike Hayworth

Orca Island