Once again, Ocean Shores residents are being threatened by the prospect of nightly vacation rental houses in our residential neighborhoods. This is currently against city code, and the last two times this change was attempted, we voted it down. This time it might not be put on a ballot.
In the worst case scenario, we will experience things such as excessive noise, too many cars, trespassing, drunk or stoned disorderly conduct, barking and roaming dogs, and dangerous campfires, all right next door to our homes. The peace and quiet and quality of life that brought us here are destroyed.
In the best case scenario, if none of those problems occur, we still lose our neighborhood values, with a constant stream of strangers coming and going. Having friends and neighbors nearby, belonging and feeling safe is what a neighborhood is about, and that will be lost. Houses in our neighborhoods would also be owned by strangers who have no investment in our community other than to rake in the rental income.
Proponents say licensing, required local property managers, and code enforcement will take care of the disturbance problems. That assumes the owners will license their houses and play by the rules. It also means residents have to call our already understaffed police department to deal with problems. Calling the police to report a neighbor is not a typical part of our daily lives and is another impact on our quality of life. Our police officers have more important things to do than responding to calls at vacation rental houses scattered throughout town.
Proponents also say this will stimulate new house construction, increasing property values and property tax revenues. Our 2018 budget projection is $54,000 property tax income from new construction. If this change generates a 30 percent increase in housing starts (a very generous assumption) that is about $16,000 new revenue. When you compare that to the annual rental income for investors and the increased commissions for real estate agents on every sale, it is easy to see who this benefits the most.
Finally, there is no reason to believe this whole scheme will work. We already have two areas in town that allow nightly rental houses. The relatively new Oyhut Bay planned community is growing, but certainly not at a phenomenal rate, and has on-site property management to prevent disturbance problems. Our south-end commercial area has some bay front and bay view lots where some new construction has occurred in the past few years. However, they are not building the supposed big, expensive houses that will boost our tax revenue so significantly. They are very small cabins that generate a lot of rental income for the investor and a pittance of tax revenue for the city.
Do not let special interests ruin our quality of life. Ocean Shores is a great place to live. Let’s keep it that way. Please contact Mayor Crystal Dingler and Alicia Bridges to express your opposition to this change, and come to the next Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday, March 13, to provide public comment to the commissioners.