I came across an interesting paragraph yesterday in a Kurt Vonnegut short story entitled "Where I Live." It made me think about Salida, and the feeling many of us share that we are at a crossroads. Will Salida continue to be a small mountain town where people live simply, or will it devolve into a pseudo town that exists for the pleasure of rich tourists and where locals are priced out of the housing market?
Here's the paragraph:
"For one thing, it is not a hollow village, with everything for rent, with half of the houses empty in the winter. Most of the people live there all year round, and most of them aren't old, and most of them work - as carpenters, salesmen, masons, architects, teachers, writers, and what have you. It is a classless society, a sometimes affectionate and sentimental one."
I did not attend the Mountain Mail City Council candidate forum, but I read in the paper that nearly all of the candidates agreed that the time has come to discuss vacation rentals. Here's the quote from October 23: "One issue that got a practically unanimous response was the place of vacation rentals in Salida and the problems they create when they saturate an area."
Wouldn't it be great if the Council tackled a topic right away on which there is a lot of agreement? It may be a good way for the members to get to know each other, practice compromise, etc. as they coalesce into a fully functioning Council which demonstrates mutual respect and cooperation. It would be a win for the Council and a win for the City (in my humble opinion) to start formulating a framework for vacation rentals in town. I believe that we need a policy that respects the rights of all property owners (those who rent out their homes and those who live next to them) and also forces those who are using their homes for profit to treat that home as a business (taxed accordingly).
Let's get a community task force together to give feedback to the City Council on this issue. I would love to see the Council have a process for collecting community feedback on critical decisions, and then using this information to synthesize a reasonable course of action. Let's research how other towns have and have not successfully managed the vacation rental industry in their towns and learn from others.
Let's start a conversation.
In my vision of this framework, the taxes/fees paid by owners of vacation rentals will be funneled into projects for attainable housing for those who live and work in our community. That's my vision. What's yours?