Thanks and congratulations to dozens of islanders | Letter

Our thanks and congratulations go out to the dozens of islanders who took time from their busy lives to attend the Nov. 5 County Council meeting for the sole purpose of expressing their demands for more effective regulation of vacation rental properties, as well as over 900 signers of our petition for a moratorium on new permits while regulatory relief is considered.

The issues, though complex, are becoming clear. Months of careful research and analysis and our three highly participatory public meetings have revealed to us a community grappling with issues that speak to the very heart of life on Orcas and throughout San Juan County; loss of neighborhood values, stress on water and septic infrastructure, erosion of environmental quality, and a rising awareness that our tourist-based economy may already be suffering from its own success. Moreover, remarkably similar chronicles are emerging from other communities around the world, from Carmel to New York to Dublin to Amsterdam, where the responses have ranged from outright bans on short term rentals to finely-tuned limits on rental activity.

After the Tuesday council meeting, we found ourselves experiencing the frustration that follows exhaustive public sessions in which citizens and government talk at each other instead of with. That has got to change. The time is right to change the trajectory of vacation rental permit approvals. We love our islands too much to lose this opportunity to lay claim to the mutually satisfactory solutions that we know are out there. That is our mission and that is our promise to this community.

Vacation Rental Working Group,

Orcas Island