Over the past year, there has been ongoing debate in Lake Bluff over Short Term Rentals, home rentals of less than 30 days (STRs). We studied the arguments on both sides of the issue and gave our input to the Village Board last fall. Our conclusion: STRs could not possibly add to the qualities that drew us to Lake Bluff in 1977 and have kept us here for 41 years. We have owned 2 homes in the village, occupied our current one for 38 years, raised our children here and now welcome visits from our grandchildren.
The characteristics of Lake Bluff that have kept us such long-time residents were “discovered” by North Star Destinations, an advertising agency hired in 2012 to “brand” the village. Lake Bluff’s 2016 Strategic Plan gave direction to “uncover its brand, with the ultimate benefits of economic stability of the residential and business communities, making Lake Bluff a distinctive destination of choice.” North Star’s study concluded that having a deep sense of belonging to the neighbors and the community is a priceless reward for living in Lake Bluff. The best qualities, according to the study, include the village’s location nestled along Lake Michigan, and its unpretentious charm and easy-going spirit. The “lake” blue wooden signage based on this “brand” can be seen at the entrances to the village, depicting a boy running with his dog by our iconic gazebo. It is an attractive image, implying that the village is serene, safe, and pet- and family-friendly, qualities our own family has enjoyed for so long.
Of course, we have noticed changes over the years. The village has lost a bit of its “charm”, with larger new houses crowding small lots, resulting in the loss of too much of the valuable hardwood tree canopy and too many important historical homes. Businesses once providing basic services (groceries, clothing, hardware) have given way to gift shops and a few too many restaurants. However Lake Bluff still remains a community of neighbors who make a point of getting to know each other, and support, respect and act responsibly towards each other.
We urge our Village Board to provide competent governance by responding to residents who are deeply concerned about maintaining the natural beauty, serenity, history, tradition, and especially the safety that give the village its unique character. In the face of much opposition from a substantial number of homeowners who have supported this village for years, the Board has spent many months and a great deal of energy on designing STR ordinances. Board members are still conflicted, evenly split pro and con. Clearly, commercialization of our lovely residential neighborhoods could not possibly add to the quality of village life which the vast majority of full-time residents have found so appealing. The only entities benefitting from STRs would be a handful of entrepreneurs and multi-billion dollar marketers (e.g. Airbnb), who seem to have found our “sleepy sea-side kid- and dog-friendly” village so enticing. The Village Board could realistically risk legal action if home values or sales were compromised by STRs.
The Board needs to show leadership on issues surrounding safety, responsible financial management, appropriate zoning ordinances and architectural standards, maintenance of recreational opportunities (the golf course, community events, and park district facilities and programs), responsible caring for precious and irreplaceable natural resources (the beach, ravines, majestic hardwoods and open spaces) and protection of significant historical and architectural features that give such rich substance and texture to village life.
We encourage our Board to prioritize the primary issues of real concern to the Village, maintain and protect our unique quality of life (our “brand”), and prohibit the injection of STRs or any other commercial enterprises into our beautiful residential neighborhoods.
Linda and Lydon Neumann
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