Reader Opinion: Defending our dream
The proposed Short-Term Rental License Ordinance is expected to pass on Dec. 31, which will undermine the opportunity for many homeowners to participate in the sharing economy.
Dave Williams, who owns a cabin on Pelican Lake next door to a VRBO, is well-known to the county commissioners. He and his lawyer have been the single driving force behind this ordinance.
Mr. Williams claims that VRBO guests are overloading septic systems, which is causing environmental harm. He says VRBOs caused the algae bloom in 2018 and that froth on his shore is pollution from what he characterizes as 'commercial laundries' of short-term rentals. There is no evidence for this.
According to the Minnesota DNR, “In most instances, the foam we see on the surface of lakes and streams is natural. It's created when air mixes with natural organic compounds, such as decomposing plants and animals. The mixing or agitation in lakes is commonly caused by wind and wave action.”
As for the 2018 algae bloom, the Whitefish Area Property Association website indicates the cause was “unusually heavy rains upstream which carried 3 to 4 times the usual concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus into Upper Whitefish.”
I asked the county if even one VRBO property has been identified as the cause of septic pollution. No evidence has been submitted or is known to exist. So what's going on here?
In addition to burdensome fees, inspections, and septic re-certifications, this ordinance sets a room occupancy limit, “quiet time,” and parking restrictions. Three complaints were reported last year. A few disputes seems like insufficient cause to interfere with all people wanting to share their homes.
To best protect our lakes, and our harmonious community, our efforts and ordinances ought to be concentrated on addressing confirmed sources of our problems, and not based on speculation.