Submitted by Steve Snowden, Lopez Island.
I’m am writing in objection to the Guest Column by Brad Brown, “Eliminating ‘Us’ and ‘Them’”, both because of misinformation and the disingenuousness of the piece. First, the current push is to limit the number of VRs to those that are currently permitted and compliant. As long as his VR is both he is not going to lose his ability to gain the rental income. While some of those who object to VRs may want to eliminate them all, the only way that will happen is by possible attrition if the owners stop maintaining them in compliance, or if the permits are no longer allowed to convey with the property upon sale. Second, owner-occupied vacation rentals are likely to be placed in a different category without the limits. Again, he is not going to lose his ability to rent the cottage on his property as a VR as long as he keeps it in compliance.
The disingenuousness of Mr. Brown’s column comes from his calling for a kumbaya moment while casting aspersions on the folks working against unlimited VR rentals. For example, his saying that some of them illegally run VRs “off the books”. Note that the movement against VRs is asking for stepped-up enforcement aimed at eliminating off-the-books VR rentals. If he is correct, he should report these unlicensed VRs.
Mr. Brown is also wrong and insulting when he conflates an objection to the “nuisance factor” of VRs and the “us versus them” mentality. His implication is that those objecting to VRs are petty small-minded people who see nothing further than their own personal comfort. So much for kumbaya. Does he deny that there is a legitimate concern about the carrying capacity of the islands? Our experience over the last year and a half with the ferry system has shown just how close we are to some limits. He appears to ignore the legitimate grievances of VR rental neighbors including trespassing, trash, parking, noise, and excessive water use. It is hard to feel the kumbaya spirit when your property is under assault. He is right that VR renters are sometimes considered a nuisance, he is very wrong and insulting when he attributes that to “They don’t look right or think the same or act appropriately. They are not from our tribe.” As well as “These others are often not who we are – on the outside. They are foreign and unsavory in some way. We move to the other side of the street.” Is he really suggesting that the people opposed to VR rentals are racist misogynist bigots? He may have lived an exemplary life in the service to the needs of others, but in this case, he is guilty of the “us versus them” mentality he protests against.
Yes, there are certainly wonderful people staying in VRs, and I am in favor of a well-regulated and limited VR rental base to serve them. Mr. Brown’s situation of occupying the property with the VR is ideal and allows him to oversee what happens there, both enforcing county ordinances and responding to any complaints from his neighbors. This is not the case for off-island owners, and it is a problem. His long list of his treasured people who come to the San Juans is very sweet, but ignores the large number who come here to party, and consider our bit of paradise to be a version of Disneyworld with all of us residents being employees only here to service their needs.
As for the “doggies”, I hope that Mr. Brown clearly tells his customers that San Juan County does not allow free-ranging dogs anywhere, including our large number of public trails. Dogs must be under leash or close verbal control.