Re: Vacation ordinance | Letter

I must comment on the front-page story “Amendments to vacation rental permit ordinance proposed.” There is so much about this that is infuriating.

I have had friends in the construction trade here that have long speculated that the county is using an unresponsive and unnecessarily glacial permitting process as a planning tool. Here it is in black and white. What could be more disingenuous? We staff a county department with well-paid people, who enjoy working conditions and benefits that are not common in our local private sector, all at the taxpayer’s expense, who are instructed to frustrate the intentions of those same taxpayers? Taxpayers who pay at every turn, and expend thought and energies to devise plans to test their hopes and visions, hiring consultants and draftspeople to get to the point of a permit submittal, only to find out the department is there to surreptitiously obstruct their plans?

Also infuriating is the logic that this cruel proposal is based upon. Why do we need affordable housing? Because we have people living and working here who need to have tenable living situations. If one takes away the jobs that vacation rentals generate, one will substantially reduce the number of people able to find work in San Juan County. They will no longer be looking for housing, and those houses that have been freed up by discouraging people from making them available as vacation rentals will remain empty. They will remain empty not only because they will not be permitted as guest houses, but they will remain empty because the people who do need rentals will still not be able to afford them. As a further result of this, the people who would have rented the vacation rentals will not arrive – because there will be nowhere for them to stay. This will further reduce revenues and employment potential.

Infuriating about this also is that the people who are working in the county departments will not feel this pain. Their jobs continue regardless, as do the taxes that provide their payroll. The article that I refer to here, perhaps unfairly, creates the tendency in this reader to characterize bureaucrats as being out of touch with life on the ground. People who see no contradiction in setting themselves at odds with the people they are supposed to serve. I would like to propose that a system be developed to identify and profile this type of person, and then devise a method to frustrate and discourage their ability to locate in our communities.

Jeff Nichols