“Few dishes have drawn such universal ire—or impassioned defense—as Hawaiian Pizza,” according to a story in last week’s Wall Street Journal. “The polarizing pizza that sliced apart family and friends for years is now a global symbol of questionable taste.” The question reverberating around the globe, according to the world’s foremost financial journal, is whether pineapple really belongs on pizza?
The question reverberating around Lake Bluff for the last two years is whether short-term rentals (STRs), via Airbnb, Vrbo and other commercial marketing sites, really belong in our village. Many of us have answered with a resounding “No,” but three trustees plus our village president insist STRs do, forcing the rest of the village to eat this version of Hawaiian pizza.
The reasons, pro and con, which keep getting repeated without effect, seem remarkably similar to the pizza debate:
- STRs will change for the worse the character of our small, neighborly-oriented village—”Hawaiian pizza tastes bad!”
- STRs will add flavor and variety by sprinkling “purposeful visitors” amongst our otherwise doughy, fearful and unwelcoming village—”Hawaiian pizza tastes good!”
- Our village has traditionally been residentially zoned for families who live in close proximity to one another—Now, that’s good old fashioned pizza!
- The village began as a lakeside resort with plenty of rooms for rent—”Hey, maybe pineapple was always meant for pizza!”
- STRs may, in fact, depress the value of our homes, usually folks’ most significant personal investment—”Grrr! Don’t mess with my pizza!”
- STRs will boost home sales with lots of new buyers—”Hawaiian pizza for everyone!”
- The ordinance is missing significant life-safety precautions—”If you’re gonna make Hawaiian pizza, then, for heaven’s sake, don’t burn it!”
- The regulations are sufficient—”Oven fires just happen…”
Because there were no facts, data or surveys specifically developed for our village and presented to support or oppose the ordinance, the STR debate has been based on personal judgment, emotion, speculation or, as we see with pizza, merely personal taste. We all concede, however, that STRs, in fact, will have significant effects on our community and how we live—the question is whether these effects will be positive, negative or irrevocable, (even if STRs are on probation).
If this were simply a debate about Hawaiian pizza, those in favor of STRs would have to accept they have at best “questionable taste,” and we could all go our own way, eat what we want, and be secure in the rightness of our own taste–our taste would be all in our mouths! But it’s not. This debate concerns real, fundamental issues—how we live together, and whether our homes will retain their market value and our village its traditional values that used to make it so desirable.
In a debate like this one, which is far weightier than chickens and bees, it’s not right that our village president has decided each time to break the deadlock between the six trustees. In a debate like this one, in which the Zoning Committee voted against STRs and the STR opponents have consistently outnumbered proponents at all of the meetings, our village president—our Chef de Cuisine—should have at least declined to vote, leaving the issue to the residents, themselves, to decide via referendum. This is the essence of small town democracy, knowing when the residents should decide, not simply ruling by fiat, so that everyone must now eat Hawaiian pizza.
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