On March 26th, the Lake Bluff PCZBA voted against permitting short term rentals (STRs) pursuant to Village Trustee Eric Grenier’s proposed ordinance. This is significant since the Zoning Committee has expertise with the relevant law and with what is considered fair when it comes to property interests and uses between neighbors.
In contrast, each time the Village Board has voted on whether to move forward with STRs, the board members have deadlocked, with the Village president breaking the tie in favor of the proponents.
The make-up of this Village Board’s deadlock is significant.
- On one side are 3 young trustees with young families—representing the lifeblood and future of our Village–who have spoken with other young families who’ve said they wouldn’t buy a house next to a STR, expressing concerns over security, safety and not knowing who their neighbors may be on a day-to-day basis.
- On the other side are 3 seniors, retirees, who believe that STRs will attract “purposeful visitors,” that friends and families will now have a place to stay in town, and that folks who need help with property taxes or some extra cash will be able to get it by renting out a room in their homes.
- Our Village president who has broken the tie each time is also a senior, retired, not a home owner in Lake Bluff and admittedly a close friend of an individual who operated an STR for years, until the Village-wide cease and desist order was imposed last year.
After almost a year of dealing with this divisive issue—and it has been divisive—it’s time for our “senior” Trustees to listen to their younger colleagues, follow the lead of the PCZBA and vote to prohibit STRs. The reasons are clear:
First, there’s been no data or research supporting STRs, which should have been assembled before beginning to consider and draft an ordinance approving them. This ordinance will have an impact on our community and once it’s out it will be impossible to reign it back in. In particular, there’s been:
- No data compiled that tells us how STRs will be beneficial to our Village.
- No expansive survey or referendum that shows Village support for or against STRs.
- No data compiled that indicates whether the sale of a house won’t suffer from being adjacent to an STR.
The other reasons and justifications advanced are wrong, insufficient or hollow:
“’Purposeful visitors’ will benefit our Village either by using our restaurants or getting to know our Village and therefore buying our homes.”
- Folks looking for a place to dine or drink will continue to use our restaurants if the restaurants and bars provide value.
- Young families will buy our homes over other homes in other villages, if Lake Bluff retains its small close, neighborly feel and real estate taxes can be reduced or held—listen to the young.
- What about “purposeless” folks using our STRs, like some bad apples use our beach?
“Friends and families want to stay close by and not in a nearby hotel or motel.”
- This is a nice idea but does not require wholesale changes to residential zoning, upon which existing homebuyers relied when they first bought homes here—I know I did.
- This change could affect home values adversely if buyers, especially young families, don’t want to buy homes near STRs—I know I wouldn’t have.
- The ordinance as proposed permits STRs across residentially zoned districts without input from neighbors—that’s just wrong.
“Folks can make some much needed or helpful revenue from renting out their homes.”
- They can do that now if they rent it for more than 30 days.
- Not everyone can participate in this commercial enterprise unless STRs are permitted everywhere without restriction—obviously not a good thing.
- Should one really feel obligated to enable their neighbor to pay his or her property taxes or garner revenue by renting out a room on a short term basis? I wouldn’t expect that sort of help from my neighbors. We downsized and sold our house in part because of the tax burden; we wouldn’t have considered imposing on our neighbors with a business.
- Candidly, I also feel somewhat “gamed” by the idea of maintaining our home and its property to the high standards that we do, and then having someone nearby make money because our neighborhood now looks really nice. What are the rest of us getting in return—a safer, more secure Village, or just more transient visitors?
“STRs are the new economy; we’ve stayed in them and we like them.”
- Plenty of communities have prohibited STRs because they see the loss of what makes their communities special—neighborliness, intactness, common interests and respect amongst neighbors.
- Just because someone may have stayed in a STR doesn’t mean that a STR needs to be next to your or my home without us having a say about it.
“The ordinance will provide regulation where none exists today.”
- The ordinance will be extremely difficult to regulate absent a neighbor making sure that the restrictions are complied with, pitting neighbor against neighbor again.
“Life-safety safeguards are adequate in the ordinance.”
- There has been much testimony about life safety, but sprinklers, which are required in new homes and for changes in use, are not required in this ordinance. This could be a fatal error.
This has been a divisive issue, pitting neighbor against neighbor, and bringing out the dreaded lawn signs. It will continue to be divisive, perhaps even more so, if STRs are permitted. The signs will return; neighbors will be forced to report their neighbors for violations; neighbors who aren’t allowed to have STRs may sue to get them; and those whose home sales that suffer because of an adjacent STR may sue to recover that loss.
Clearly, if STRs are necessary, a special use permit can be obtained for them, requiring a neighbor’s approval. Even a bed & breakfast license can be obtained via a similar process. Trustees, please listen to your young colleagues—they will be here long after you move south. Vote STRs down, like the PCZBA did, or just let the issue die deadlocked, Madam President.
Rob and Nancy Isham
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