Urge Residents to Get Involved in the Legislative Process
By Tommy Acosta
Sedona AZ (November 15, 2019) – At the end of a November 13 community forum at the Oscher Lifelong Learning Institute in Sedona where Sedona city staff presented an update on the city’s options in dealing with the exponentially growing short-term rental phenomena in Sedona, it was obvious.
Barring a comprehensive legislative bill being passed that would give the city some teeth in dealing with the perceived problems associated with short term rentals, there is little that can be done to stem the proliferation.
Assistant City Manager Karen Osborn and City Attorney Robert Pickels addressed a rapt audience of more than 50 concerned citizens, reporting on the current state of the city’s efforts to mitigate the far-reaching consequences of short-term rentals.
Short-term rentals have decimated most of the available long-term rentals in the city as owners rush to cash in by renting space in their homes to tourists looking to save money on lodging.
Reportedly, lack of long-term affordable rentals is preventing younger, less affluent families from living in Sedona, creating a shortage of students.
“We saw last year the school district close a school because enrollment is down so much, Osborn said. “Young families can’t afford to be here. This year for the first time we were not able to put together a pee-wee football league or a little league.”
A trio of legislative bills SB 1350, SB1382 and HB 2672 that allow homeowners to rent their property to visitors and vacationers without undue regulation, have impacted municipalities across Arizona.
Concerns have been expressed that homes rented by short term renters can be turned into “party houses” where renters make excessive noise, disrespect city ordinances and negatively affect quality of life in the communities they rent in.
The trend has caught on like a brushfire. People are illegally converting their garages into space they can rent. Some are putting up tents in the back or front yard and renting them, according to the assistant city manager.
Airbnb.com, a cyber outlet that advertises short-term rentals, even offers staying overnight in a cave, for a price.
Further exacerbating the city’s concerns are investment groups purchasing or building large homes in the community to accommodate short-term renters.
One such home is being built with 10 bathrooms and eight bedrooms, in a neighborhood of much smaller houses.
Running with the ideal that one’s home is their castle, the Republican-dominated state legislature, with the full support of the Goldwater Foundation, a powerful Libertarian organization, stands united and strong against any effort by municipalities to curb or deny the right of homeowners to do as they please with their property.
In 1995 a city ordinance was passed banning short-term rentals.
It was derailed by Senate Bill 1350, which became law in January of 2017.
Presently, the city can hold renters and owners accountable for breaking city laws and ordinances that protect the community but cannot stop the proliferation of the rentals or regulate what goes on inside the rental.
HB 2672 did alleviate some of the city’s concerns by prohibiting short-term rentals from being used for non-residential uses like banquets or events that require licenses.
Owners must also acquire a Transaction Privilege Tax license and provide contact information should emergencies occur.
Owners in violation can also be fined.
During the presentation city representatives assured the public they were working on short-term rentals by gathering as much data as they can and looking to develop a system to coordinate and register the concerns of the public.
They have also been traveling to meetings in Phoenix and sitting with legislators amenable to the city’s desire to better regulate short-term rentals.
At the Oct. 13 presentation the city attorney pointed to the public as the key to getting the attention of the lawmakers that perhaps could result in better legislation.
“There is a role for you to play, if you want to get involved,” he said to the audience. “It’s going to need getting in a car and driving down to Phoenix and attending the meetings when they occur at the capital.”
He said people power makes a difference in getting lawmakers to listen.
“When the residents come down and invest their time to express themselves, especially when there is a high level of passion we know exist, that has an impact on the legislators,” he said. “That’s what they want to hear. You are the people whose votes they are vying for. So they are going to hear what you say. They are going to listen to what you say.”
On October 30, a delegation of Sedona residents attended a joint ad hoc Arizona legislative meeting in Phoenix with Arizona Rep. John Kavanaugh [R-District 23] to discuss short-term rentals.
The city attorney said there would be more two more ad hoc committee meetings announced and he urged the public to attend.
“There is an opportunity now for us to try and accomplish something,” Pickels said of the upcoming ad hoc meetings in Phoenix.
To find out more on upcoming legislative events concerning short-term rentals call 928-204-7200 or email the city attorney at RPickels@sedonaAZ.gov