The STR Divide

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Posting on behalf of Kim Rosenberg.

The STR Divide

On the agenda at the end of the Council Meeting on April 6, a public hearing followed by a vote for a three-year freeze on short-term rentals was held. After the workshop and Council Meeting in March, there’d been a consensus by the Mayor and Council that pausing STR permits to figure some things out was a good idea. The plan was to freeze the number of STR’s in town to 260, I believe. You could still get a license as they became available, but the total number in town would stay frozen. There’s currently only one person on the waitlist and every year there’s some attrition after inspections come up and people choose not to renew.

I know about this process because my husband and I have an STR license for our house, which we renewed in 2020, the year we moved here full-time. When we first bought our house we rented it month-to-month to a couple of different people we knew who worked here in town. We still came down and housesat for a friend with a house on Idaho Street for more than a year. When our last renter moved back to California, we got in line to get an STR license to cover our mortgage. We wanted to use our place as much as we could and rent it out when we couldn’t be here. After a year on the waiting list and an inspection, we were good to go.

When Covid shut life down and work went on-line, like a lot of second homeowners, we decided to move here for real and during the last two years I’ve grown to understand both sides of the STR debate. I understand needing to rent in order to have a house here and now I understand some of the challenges STRs create. Some residents live in neighborhoods with STR density at like 40%. They are next door to a business and not in a residential neighborhood like they thought when they bought their homes. I’ve also gotten to know people who have been impacted by STRs because they work in town but can’t afford to live here and have had to move away. Our businesses have been affected by the struggle to get and retain employees because STRs affect workforce housing. This is all stuff I should’ve known but didn’t until I moved here.

Before the April Meeting the City Manager wrote up a resolution to bring for a vote and met with the City attorney to find out if it was kosher to pause STR’s in the whole town. This included R3, R4 and the Commercial zones, which allow STRs to operate without a wait. The attorney said that the resolution was good to go. I’m sure all this work at the behest of the Council took hours of time for our City Manager to do.

During the public hearing two property owners of homes currently still under construction on Merton and 3rd Street complained that they had only bought their homes because they believed they’d be able to rent them immediately.

So before we go on–those homes in Whispering Pines are not finished yet. They’re still working on the exteriors and some standing water issues. They’re also on the north end of the infamous 3rd Street lot, which has been cleared so completely that there is no buffer at all between those houses and the adjoining residential R2 neighborhood. It’s like a bikini wax. From Edmund Lane you can see who is parked at the Little Red Apple on Laneda and from 3rd all you can see is construction. Maybe the owners are accepting reservations for summer but for right now–the houses aren’t finished.

The Council had a lengthy anecdotal discussion about large family reunions in big houses and the hardship of childhoods spent camping at the state park instead of renting a beach house in town. Somehow accessibility for out of town families came up. Accessibility denotes an ease of use in all ways for people of different abilities and income levels. In a town where most houses rent for far more than a hundred a night, and most vacation homes aren’t really accessible for people with disabilities, using the term makes it sound like rentals in R3, R4 and the commercial zone will be affordable for families when really, they won’t be.

Councilmember Spegman asked if there was a way to fast track the two homeowners on the STR permit list and the City Manager reported that it could be done.

To my point–the homes are still under construction, there’s one person on the waitlist and it’s two people with unfinished homes complaining.

Only Councilmember Spegman voted against the change to the resolution. The Mayor and the rest of the Council voted to exclude houses in R3, R4 and the Commercial areas in the freeze making it closer to a slushy.

Policy 7 of the Comprehensive Plan states: “The plan is not to be used for the benefit of a few property owners or special interests, but for the city as a whole.”


A person commented at the meeting that the City shouldn’t listen to a handful of people stuck in the 90’s–and I wonder, is it true? Not the 90’s part because that was not a good decade for me. But is it true that just a few people in town wanted the freeze? I’ve received plenty of emails from people in town and around town who say otherwise. But maybe I’m wrong.

It would be a good thing to know.

Regardless of your opinion, I hope you let our City know how you feel. Otherwise, we’re like that spouse on Dr. Phil who never says what he or she wants and then blames their partner for not being able to read their mind. Don’t be that guy!

Emails for Mayor, City Council and City Manager (you can cc all)

City Manager: Leila Aman
Mayor: Mike Scott
Councilmember: Hans Tonjes
Councilmember: Steve Nuttall
Council President: Linda Kozlowski
Councilmember: Jerry Spegman

Kim Rosenberg