I want to applaud the comments of my former-neighbors of 30+ years, Linda and Lydon Neumann, who wrote recently on the issue of Short Term Rentals (STRs). They framed the issues perfectly and wrote an objective and thoughtful comment that touched on all the right points in all the right ways, demonstrating again that STRs are not right for Lake Bluff. Are our trustees listening? I certainly hope so.
The Village has been working on this issue for almost a year and the divisiveness created by it and its drawn-out process continues. There are folks who want STRs because they think they would be nice to have, and could help with their real estate taxes, and Trustees Grenier and Lemieux believe they will attract “purposeful visitors” to our Village. Others don’t want them because they worry about residential life being disrupted by transients aka “non-purposeful visitors” and they worry about life-safety concerns in these homes.
I agree with the opposition. I think we’re dumbing our Village down, creating pockets of New Age boarding houses, and I don’t understand why, as a longtime good neighbor who invests annually in a well maintained home, why my wife and I are being asked to support or enhance someone else’s commercial activity. Also, as I have stated on these pages, I believe there is a strong argument that STRs will negatively impact sales of neighboring homes. That’s a serious issue for all communities in a state like ours.
What is truly troubling to me is that for all of the discussions, drafting and meetings, there has been no dispositive or even relevant data obtained by the Village about the value of STRs and their effect on Village life, safety or home values. This is still the case; and it would seem our Working Group and the Village Board would have required such data, before even beginning to have Trustee Grenier and Lemieux draft their ordinance to permit STRs. It just doesn’t seem reasonable for the Village to proceed with any ordinance without real research and data based on the facts of our Village, not another town or city in the United States. If there isn’t any, then let’s do our own, and there’s still plenty of time to do so because this is neither a critical nor a pressing issue.
Now we have two draft ordinances—one permitting and one prohibiting STRs—all buffed up at some legal expense and ready to be sent to the PCZBA for technical review. At this point, it’s anticipated that the Trustees will tie again when they vote and that President O’Hara will be asked to cast the deciding vote, earning the enmity of the losing side.
It also appears that whatever ordinance moves forward may encounter litigation and that divisiveness will continue. For example, a lawsuit filed recently in Nashville by STR proponents overturned the ordinance there permitting them; those folks opposed the regulation and the ordinance was found to be unconstitutionally vague. Go figure. On the other hand, as I have noted here two weeks ago, an ordinance permitting STRs could very well encounter litigation if one of the approved STRs negatively impacts a pending house sale.
There simply must be a better way. I would suggest that rather than continuing forward into the divisive and litigious area of STR regulation, the Village Board table its ordinances and look to solving this purported need for additional vacation or short term stays via a Bed and Breakfast.
Such traditional hostelries are already permitted under state and village law and fit into the charming older style of our Village. If there is someone who wants to rent out their home, then it seems they could do so as a B&B, via a special use permit, with the necessary life-safety requirements, licensing, taxes and parking all worked out. There are plenty of old Victorians in our Village well suited for such use.
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