The room vote was 94-34, with at least one critic arguing it was a largely pro-rental partisan crowd, not the sentiment of long-term residents.
The majority vote, however, perhaps signaled a new willingness to explore some middle ground in the highly polarized — and charged — issue of short-term rentals.
Among the Mission Beach Town Council committee’s recommendations: Non-transferable rental permits; annual per-unit $950 permit fee; primary rental occupant must be age 25-plus with three-night minimum; two-person per bedroom occupancy; required “good neighbor policy” posting; prompt nuisance complaint response; complaint log required showing responses; escalating fines from $1,000 to $4,500 with permit revocation, and an appeals process, for repeat offenders; and an ultimate goal of limiting short-term rentals in MB to 30 percent of total units.
Opposing sides however remain divided. Opponents insist short-term rentals don’t belong at all in residential areas. Proponents counter that they’re a property owner’s right and integral to the local economy.
Upwards of half of Mission Beach’s total number of rental units are acknowledged to be short-term. Mission Beach Town Council recently formed a broad-based, short-term rental committee to try and achieve agreement between the opposing sides.
The committee consists of real estate agent Kimberly Wise, Greg Knight, 710 Beach Rentals owner Blaine Smith, Larry Webb, Scott Morrison, Bob Semonsen and environmentalist Cathy Ives.
Current MTBC president Matt Gardner hailed the June 12 vote as “heartwarming watching people come together finally on an issue that has previously been contentious.”
Garner added it could serve as a new model for other communities. “… It is a prime example of local efforts working towards change that is best fitting for the specific neighborhood,” he said. “We hope for, and will work towards, inclusion in future City regulations.”
Characterizing short-term rentals in MB currently as a “nightmare,” Knight noted the rental committee was formed with all parties represented because they realized they could accomplish more together than apart. “There was a lot of fighting and bickering going on,” he said. “We realized we had some of the same issues with noisy parties, etc. Though we are on totally different sides of the aisle, we realized we were tying to do some of the same things. So we said, ‘Let’s do it.’ ”
Knight said the 30 percent figure the committee came up with as a target for reducing short-term units down to seemed like a reasonable compromise.
“We thought we could get people together from both sides to come up with something we could present to the City,” said Blaine Smith, an MB vacation-rental operator. Smith reiterated the rental industry’s stance that restricting short-term rentals to primary owners only was a “de facto ban.” He added, “It woke us up that we need to be active on this issue.”
Claiming the City has “kicked this can down the road for way too long,” Wise added, “It’s festering. It’s a big problem.”
Audience members on both sides spoke out during a Q&A period with committee members. Some argued the 30-percent target was too high. Others contended it was too low. One critic of the committee’s compromise proposal labeled the proposed $950 annual permit fee as “extortion.”
“One of our challenges is, how do we get these (short-term rental) numbers down?,” responded Wise. “How do we create attrition?”
Of what comes next, MBTC president Gardner said, “Best-case scenario, this resolution can be adopted as a neighborhood framework for other communities by giving each community the empowerment for local solutions that are adoptable into the City’s municipal code.”