Vacation Rental Community Conversation thanks community | Letter to the editor

The organizers of the Vacation Rental Community Conversation thank all the members of our community who took time to participate in a fruitful and important dialogue regarding the short-term rental industry on Orcas Island.

On July 17, approximately 200 people packed the Orcas public school cafeteria. Presenters highlighted the growing number of out-of-county vacation rental (VR) owners and shortage of affordable housing as points of concern, in addition to exploring how other municipalities around the world have responded to the explosion of short-term rentals as a commercial industry.

Following the presentations, participants talked at their tables, sharing personal experiences, weighing the pros and cons of VRs, and identifying questions about the issue. Finally, each table chose one or two topics that were most important to them to report back to the entire assembly.

The most prevalent concerns were the impact on availability and affordability of housing, loss of neighborhood character, pressure on resources, and the over-commercialization of Orcas Island.

Attendees also expressed interest in learning more about what regulations might be effective, particularly what options might be available to distinguish between local and out-of-county VR owners. There was also a strong desire for additional data and research on various aspects of the impacts caused by vacation rentals. Vacation rentals are a complex issue, and our conversation included people with a wide range of perspectives. Some participants believe VRs are an important part of the island economy and don’t need further regulation. A majority of participants expressed concerns about the negative impacts of unchecked growth of short-term rentals and were interested in exploring changes to the existing regulations.

Presentations and notes from the first meeting will soon be available at You can also follow our Facebook page at “Vacation Rentals: A Community Conversation on Orcas.”

We are grateful for this spirited example of civic engagement in our community and look forward to diving deeper into this issue at our next public meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 25.

Yonatan Aldort, Janet Alderton, Jennifer Barcelos, Diane Berreth, Lisa Byers, Andrea Cohen, Toby Cooper, Michael Johnson, Artha F. Kass, Mark Mayer, Gregory Oaksen, Heather Dew Oaksen, Margaret Payne, Donna Gerardi Riordan, Anne-Marie Shanks, Joe Symons, Lynette Wood

Orcas Island