Letter to the Editor: If We Wait on Short-term Rentals It Will Be Too Late

The Parsons’ letter [March 19 Peninsula Pulse] makes important points about the need to regulate short-term rentals as they begin to transform residential neighborhoods. Rentals are growing dramatically and creating friction across the county. If we wait, it will be too late.

The recent reply to that letter was very one-sided. There is a need to balance competing interests with reasonable regulation.

In general, responsible people operate rentals. They provide attractive lodging for our tourist economy and benefit local businesses. They are here to stay, so their owners should accept common-sense limitations. Demand will remain.

Residents are entitled to rely on neighborhood zoning. The county’s ordinance states that in single-family residential areas, “[t]he permitted uses are restricted in order to maintain the strictly residential character of these areas.” Rentals that are available for a day or three are inconsistent with this intention because they are not used for residential purposes. They are businesses often comprising multiple properties. For tax reasons, their owners cannot reside in them.

Our neighborhood has a house that advertises up to 20 guests. Another accommodates 30 for one night. They are out of character with the neighborhood and can be disturbing, including a bachelor-party morning drinking contest with loud music. As short-term rentals proliferate, residents are losing neighbors on whom they rely for help and friendship.

Regulations to preserve the strictly residential character of quiet neighborhoods by reasonably limiting transient use are appropriate. State law permits a six-night minimum. Four nights would curtail party houses. Guests numbers can be limited by the number of bedrooms or how a septic system has been sized and to mitigate fire-response risk. Cars can be restricted to parking spaces. Street placement of garbage bins can be limited to the day before pickup.

These restrictions are typical in many places. Some argue that requirements should not be placed on businesses that don’t apply to everyone. That’s a weak argument. We routinely regulate businesses differently than individuals, and competing lodging businesses are prohibited from operating at all where short-term rentals do.

Roy Thilly

Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin

Terry Connelly

Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin