Letters: Short-term rental issue needs more scrutiny

Open letter on

Short-term rentals

Dear Mayor Dingler; The Ocean Shores Planning Commission is reviewing the current City Code with regard to overnight transient rentals as you requested. I have attended two of their meetings to listen to the commissioners’ discussions on this topic and I am concerned that the commissioners have failed to take the first step in the process – that is, analyzing the current situation and defining what, if any, problems exist. The commissioners seem to have jumped immediately to how they might change the Code to allow overnight rentals in residentially-zoned areas in the city without any rationale for doing so.

First, the commissioners have not demonstrated that there are any significant problems with the status quo. Second, they have not shown how their proposed changes will improve the current situation but seem to be determined to press forward, each for their own reasons. Finally, the commissioners have not explained how the city will be able to enforce these new and complex regulations, especially since they have said that the current regulations are not being enforced. At one meeting it was claimed that there were literally hundreds of “illegal” rentals occurring in residential areas and that this change would solve that problem. I did a search this past week on the Airbnb website for Ocean Shores and found a total of 132 listings. Of those, 124 were in commercially-zoned areas and only a handful possibly in residential areas. I also checked the VRBO website and, while they didn’t give the counts, their map showed a similar clustering in commercial areas as did Airbnb’s map.

I believe that some members of the Planning Commission are using this “review” as a subterfuge to achieve the goal of allowing overnight rentals in all parts of the city, starting in one area, claiming success and then moving on to the next area, and then the next. There have been a number of news stories published recently to the effect that many local governments across the country are attempting to restrict Airbnb activity because of the negative effects that they are experiencing, such as a reduction in the number of rental properties. And some are having a difficult time trying to rescind existing laws that allow it. Once builders start developing properties for the purpose of overnight rentals, it will be hard to pull them back from that activity.

In summary, I feel that this is a classic case of a solution in search of a problem. There is no evidence of a significant problem regarding nightly transient rentals in Ocean Shores and we surely do not need to arbitrarily create one by expanding nightly rentals into our residential neighborhoods.

Sincerely,

David Linn

Ocean Shores