Voices: Q&A on short-term vacation rentals

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jeff Daniel is the Chair of the Ocean Shores Planning Commission and has been a real estate broker in Ocean Shores for nearly 15 years. At the beginning of this year, the Planning Commission was asked to review and make recommendations regarding the City’s current ordinances regarding Short-Term Vacation Rentals. The Planning Commission did recently vote for a recommendation to allow short-term vacation rentals in some areas of Ocean Shores. Daniel as the chair of Commission did not have a vote on the recommendation.

Why is there a need to change the city’s current policy on short-term rentals and what is the Planning Commission recommending to the City Council?

This city has a long history of being unable to provide proper public services to our community due to a lack of tax revenue. Well-regulated Short-Term Vacation Rentals — which exist in most every other beach or coastal town in this country — will create a significant additional source of revenue for the city through many avenues including additional hotel/motel taxes, sales taxes and through the creation of additional jobs related to construction, maintenance and management of these rentals, as well as through the increase of local property valuations. The revenues from these rentals will ultimately do a lot to help the City and our business community financially.

With the recent advent of online vacation home booking services such as Home Away, VRBO and Airbnb, many Ocean Shores homeowners already rent out their homes for short periods of time, but without being licensed, taxed and inspected by the city. They do this through successful loopholes that the city has been unable to crack. Legal vacation rental owners pay the City thousands of dollars in annual taxes and fees, but unlicensed operators pay nothing. This new revenue stream will allow the city to have the funds to be able to regulate and tax short-term rentals as well as creating new revenues for code enforcement and public safety.

Further, there are many homes in Ocean Shores that aren’t in very good condition. Many of these are used as full-time rentals and many more sit unused and vacant for most of the year. Out-of-town home owners would now have an opportunity to compete in the vacation rental market and will have to fix and clean up their homes to make them rentable. This in turn makes the entire city look better.

Lastly, our business community doesn’t benefit when there are hundreds of vacant, unused vacation homes out here every week. By allowing vacation rentals, many of these homes will be occupied by tourists who will shop in town, fill up their gas tanks, buy groceries, etc. and will be boosting our economy even further. Additionally, we should absolutely see a decrease in property crimes as more and more of these vacation homes will be occupied more often creating less opportunities for thieves who like to break into empty homes.

In the end and most importantly, successful tourism leads to property sales and construction. The resulting property taxes are what provides a long term, stabilized revenue for our City.

Why did the Commission decide to propose a limited area west of Ocean Shores Blvd. and south of Marine View Dr.?

It was thought that those areas, being close to the beach and the ocean would be more

desirable venues for vacation rentals as most people who rent here want to see the ocean or be within walking distance to the beach. It was also thought to be a compromise between those who were against all nightly rentals, anywhere, and those who want no restrictions at all. Some members of the Planning Commission, I believe, considered this to be a compromise and or a trial run to see how it goes.

Who stands to benefit from the proposal and who might be those most affected?

Vacation home rentals are very popular and successful in all if not most coastal areas throughout the country. Homeowners who wish to occasionally rent their homes and provide supplemental income in the face of rising property taxes and the expense of maintaining a summer and weekend house can receive the extra income to do so. This added income allows many potential buyers the opportunity to now afford to buy a beach house as well. The city will also benefit from increased taxes and fees that rental homeowners would pay. Ocean Shores homeowners may also see an increase in property values because of the availability of such rentals. More visitors will be drawn to the area because not all tourists want to stay in hotels, and those extra visitors will benefit stores, restaurants, shops and the City. The increased growth and opportunities will also benefit residents.

On the other hand, opponents raise concerns that short-term rentals will bring nothing but noise and disturbances to our community if they’re allowed. Unfortunately, this just isn’t the case when you examine the areas of Seabrook, Oyhut Bay or anywhere else coastal vacation rentals have been the norm for generations. Further, there are already hundreds of short-term rentals already in Ocean Shores and there have been no such problems and those homes are far better maintained than the typical month-to-month rental in this town.

How would it be licensed, inspected, and controlled by the city, and at what potential cost?

The city would initiate an application and licensing fee, an inspection process, adequate insurance and safety requirements, require a local property manager and an annual renewal or suspension. However, these requirements and others would all be up to the City Council shall they choose to move forward on this.

What would be the public notice process, and would neighbors have a process to monitor surrounding short-term rental uses?

The rental homeowner must comply with all rules and regulations of the ordinance and is also subject to all public nuisance complaints and violations according to the Ocean Shores Municipal Code. Again, and however, these requirements and others would all be up to the City Council shall they choose to move forward on this.