Op-Ed: Fair Treatment for All Homeowners

We are your neighbors. We own and care for homes that welcome guests to Door County, often in a neighborhood setting. More than 80% of our homes are owned by Wisconsinites. Our homes pay considerable lodging taxes in addition to property tax. If ordinances currently under consideration in Sevastopol (and being considered by other townships) go into effect, our rentals will be negatively affected; corresponding lodging taxes will significantly decline; and all homeowners will almost certainly see a tax increase to fill these budget holes. 

We contribute to the tax base more than an average home because of a 5.5% room tax, which helps to pay for services that benefit the whole community, including road repair and other essential services. In 2019, short-term rentals contributed approximately $1.53 million (30%) of the $5.1 million that Door County collected in room-tax revenue. Last year, Sevastopol alone received $102,477 through its share of room-tax revenue. 

We are under attack by people who have stereotyped us as hosts who overcrowd our homes, make more noise than the average dwellers and are inconsiderate of our neighbors. Nothing could be further from the truth.

According to the Sheriff’s Department, in all of Door County between 2019 and 2021, the monthly average of all nuisance calls – not just related to short-term rentals – is fewer than seven. That is out of 13,000 households in our county. 

But based on what we believe are inaccurate accusations, the Sevastopol Town Board wants to impose a limit on how often these homes can be rented: A rental may not begin until at least seven days after the first day of the preceding rental. As a result, many of us will lose half of our bookings. 

We’ve formed the Door County Vacation Rental Association to set the story straight about who we are and what we value. We strive to promote the Door County community, contribute to its economy and be good neighbors. 

What does it mean to be a good neighbor? We’ve adopted the Door County Tourism Zone policy. It involves conducting ourselves in a manner that is respectful of and not disruptive to neighbors, and sharing owners’ contact information with neighbors so they can get quick resolutions to any concerns. It covers garbage disposal, pets, parking and being sensitive to our awesome natural ecosystem.

So what is the issue?

There is a small percentage of home-sharing hosts who don’t operate as good neighbors. Just like you, we think those hosts should be held accountable. We agree with noise, parking and occupancy limitations and enforcement.  

However, a restriction on guest stays does not solve these challenges. We believe it is meant to eliminate homes shared with guests.

Many of us have been in Door County for generations. We invest in and care for our homes. Our business benefits local plumbers, cleaners, roofers, landscapers, carpenters and all contractors in general. The income from our guests helps to support the local economy through visits to restaurants, entertainment venues, golf courses, kayak companies, boutiques and more.

There are ways to address concerns. Strengthen and enforce the existing noise, parking and septic-system capacity ordinances, for example. In addition, the room tax may increase from 5.5% to 8%, and part of this increase can help with additional enforcement and accountability.

We’ve proposed a mediated approach to address concerns with the Town of Sevastopol, and the Sevastopol leadership has repeatedly turned it down. Why won’t the town leaders agree to mediation? Would they rather have a lawsuit? We have hired an attorney to do that if needed, but we’d rather have a respectful discussion and develop a reasonable solution that addresses legitimate concerns. 

You can help by making your voice heard. This ordinance is slated to be voted on by the Sevastopol Town Board as early as this month. A public-comment meeting is set for May 11, 5:30 pm, in Sevastopol. Contact Amy Flok, clerk/treasurer, at 920.746.1230 to make an appointment to participate. COVID-19 protocols will be followed. 

If you are not able to attend in person, you can write a letter asking town leaders to meet with us to mediate a fair solution. Email your note, marked “In the record,” to [email protected]

The Sevastopol Town Board could vote to pass this restrictive ordinance as early as May 17, so the time to act is now.

We value our neighborhoods. We are asking to be treated fairly. Please solve the real problem by strengthening and enforcing regulations to hold the few bad apples accountable instead of economically crippling us and the economy of Door County.

On behalf of the membership of the 

Door County Vacation Rental Association, based in Sevastopol

Kelly Avenson

Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin

Braden Duszynski

Madison, Wisconsin

Mike Kahr

Sevastopol, Wisconsin

Doug Kerkman

Algonquin, STATE

Kristine Rowe

Ellison Bay, Wisconsin 

Michael Servais

Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin

Mick Walsh

Chicago, Illinois

Megan Welter

Fitchburg, STATE