At the Planning Commission (PC) meeting June 25 to discuss regulation of short term rentals (STRs) in Marine on St. Croix, we heard proponents of STRs argue that 1) STRs will be good for Marine businesses because they promote tourism, 2) STRs are a profitable home business that’s harmless to neighbors, and 3) STR owners and their customers will be responsible and respectful.
Let’s consider the implications of these arguments for homeowners in Marine. First, as former owners of Marine General Store, we were (and are) strong advocates of promoting tourism in Marine, but we understood that many residents regard Marine as a private haven that would be despoiled by too many tourists. So we find it ironic that Marine is now considering inviting tourists directly into our residential neighborhoods where we expect privacy, permanent neighbors, and the absence of tourism. Ask yourselves if the right way for Marine to promote tourism and help businesses is with STRs that commercialize your neighborhood.
Second, STRs allow your neighbor to turn their residence into a 24-hour motel with 8 or more transient strangers coming and going for up to half the year, according to the draft STR ordinance. This is no ordinary home business. When we moved to Marine, we debated buying a house next to the Marina, which is a grandfathered commercial business in a residential zoned neighborhood. We bought our house with foreknowledge of this exception to the zoning laws, but we expected zoning would guarantee that our other neighbors would be permanent, non-commercial residents. We believe this is a basic right granted by residential zoning that should supersede the right of neighbors to be a part-time motel. Yet according to the draft STR ordinance, there are no limits on how many of your neighbors could install a STR, and they can do so without your permission. So consider how you will feel when an STR unexpectedly sets up next door. We believe the obvious remedy is to require any STR owner to get permission from their adjacent neighbors on an annual basis. This creates an incentive for the STR owners to be neighborly and ensure their customers are good neighbors, and it gives the local neighborhood control over its STRs. This right already exists for homeowner associations, such as Jackson Meadow, which prohibits STRs. Why not be fair and extend the right of permission to all Marine residents?
Three, two current Marine STR owners were at the PC meeting – one is a model of responsibility and civic engagement but the other threatened to sue the City if he did not get his way. This example illustrates the risk of assuming all STR owners will be good actors. The reason to have an STR ordinance is to protect residents against the worst case, because without regulation, for sure the worst will happen sometime.
Please carefully read the draft STR ordinance, ask questions, and think about the negative as well as positive aspects of having STRs in Marine when you respond to the questionnaire soon to be mailed to you.
Andy & Karen Kramer
Marine on St Croix