Why are there vacation rental permits during a pandemic? | Letter

After reading the Nov. 18 story “An Interview with Vacation Rental Work Group Vice-Chair,” I was surprised to discover that the county is still accepting vacation rental applications.

Yes, accepting, processing and approving them in the midst of the deadliest pandemic of the last century. While numerous health officials, civic leaders and politicians are advising us not to travel for the holidays, the county is issuing permits for more visitors to come here. Does that strike you as odd? It’s as if I just stumbled into some sci-fi horror flick where the virus has turned county workers into COVID-loving zombies. How can this be?

Maybe I am being unfair. Maybe they aren’t COVID-loving. Maybe the county is just, you know, in a rut. Inertia/bureaucracy can make it difficult for local governments to respond to fast-moving threats. That, I suppose, is the kind of explanation.

Another explanation involves money. Follow the money. Does VR make the islands a better place to live? No. Does VR make the islands a safer place to live? No. Does VR help with affordable housing? No, just the opposite. So, who stands to profit from VR? Off-island owners/investors profit but who profits locally? Realty companies who gain commissions from the sale of properties and then from the management of the VR property. As Lisa Byers puts it, “an economic engine.”

Mark Heacox

San Juan Island