Sedona News: The following is an interview with Sedona Mayoral Candidate Scott Jablow, presently serving as vice-mayor on the Sedona City Council. All council candidates have been invited to answer specific questions in relation to their positions and candidacy.
What office are you running for?
Mayor of Sedona
Why are you running?
Having served Sedona residents for over eight years, first as a City Councilor and most recently as Vice Mayor, I KNOW the time has come for serious change. Not in our direction, but most certainly in our implementation.
How long have you lived in Sedona?
The two are not mutually exclusive. It remains our fine residents who have brought some of the most exciting ideas to my attention. While my already noted experience has clearly prepared me to serve as your mayor, it is my consistent and ongoing commitment to LISTENING, HEARING and WORKING TO IMPLEMENT what our residents suggest, that makes me your most viable candidate. I receive emails daily from residents with interesting solutions addressing our challenges. Their creativity combined with effective leadership is what takes the best ideas forward.
Inexperienced candidates may take years to acquire the knowledge necessary to most effectively represent their cities. Topics are serious and dramatically varied while restrictions placed by the state legislature on our ability to govern can be overwhelming. My already established capacity to build and maintain lasting, trusting and meaningful relationships with the multiple organizations* sharing in decisions shaping the future of our city, is imperative to our city’s stability.
*The State of Arizona, ADOT, Coconino and Yavapai counties, Yavapai College, and the US Forest Service are partners with the city and play an important role in our destiny. It is an ongoing concern to me that not all of these agencies are sympathetic to the priorities of Sedona nor share our vision.
What are the main challenges you see Sedona facing and how would you address them?Please include the issue of homelessness and panhandling at shopping centers, etc.
We have challenges with the Federal Government and the USFS that regulate foot traffic on their trailheads but not motorized OHVs. I have spent significant time with residents directly impacted by these issues and with state/federal officials to address the ongoing environmental impact we face with OHVs (noise, dust, destruction of forest lands). This session, I have established a strong relationship with one of our State Representatives who is committed to change the way OHVs are regulated, including banning them from state highways.
Another area of concern is with Yavapai College where about 95% of the tax paid by Yavapai County residents is being spent on the Prescott side of Mingus Mountain and “table scraps” being invested in the Verde Valley campuses.
Jurisdictional issues between Yavapai County, the City of Sedona and the Sedona Airport Authority remain ongoing challenges.
While panhandling is a big concern, it is legal on public sidewalks according to federal law.
Are Short Term Rentals (Airbnb type rentals) beneficial or detrimental to the community? Should they be licensed, limited or eliminated? As a member of the city council, how would you address the issue?
The short-term rental issue is the most serious and far-reaching problem facing Sedona. Our exceptionally difficult challenge is the AZ state legislature which has removed local control (our ability to regulate and govern) forcing non-owner-occupied short-term rentals upon us. Before the advent of uncontrolled short-term rentals, homelessness was easier to define. We now have “working homeless,” people who once lived in long-term rentals but have been evicted so that property owners can now offer their homes as more lucrative short-term rentals.
The original intent of our Governor and the State Legislators when they voted to approve SB1350 was to allow a homeowner to legally rent out a room and earn extra income necessary to stay in their homes. Unfortunately, state legislators never sought input from cities and towns to understand the potential impact of their actions. Many states across the county allow their cities and towns to self-regulate in the best interests their city and its residents. However, in Arizona, when the short-term rental legislation was passed, it also removed local control that would have allowed us to limit the number of short-term rentals in our community. Apart from owner-occupied short-term rentals, unlimited short-term rentals damage our city in multiple ways including, but certainly not limited to, pricing out our essential workforce.
After five years of meeting with, writing to, and cajoling legislators through testimony, I urged our Council to hire a legislative advocate to enhance our efforts. At the City Council meeting held on May 12, 2022, our lobbyist reported that for the first time since the implementation of SB1350, four bills were proposed in the legislature. This year, Representative Brenda Barton, proposed HB2711 which would have instituted a short-term rental cap on cities with populations under 10,000. This bill was heard, passed out of committee but failed to make it to the floor of the House for a vote. This is the first bill making it that far thanks to the efforts of our advocate. SB1168, another bill introduced in the Senate, was a less far-reaching piece of legislation but did include licensing short-term rentals as a business. As an aside, the platform companies (Air BNB, VRBO, etc), realtors, and the Goldwater Institute are among those powerful forces blocking the legislation we support from moving forward.
Therefore, I continue to support licensing, capping, or eliminating non-owner occupied STRs. As a former police officer, I learned many years ago, not to give up. We came closer this year to achieving our goals than in any other prior year, and I will continue to support our advocate and fight for our city.
Do you support the city’s current SIM (Sedona in Motion) initiatives and plans for infrastructure improvements? Why or why not?
SIM is not just about moving traffic; it is multi-modal and promotes biking and walkability consistent with the vision of our Community Plan.
We have too many tourists. Period. Our infrastructure cannot currently support the influx of visitors. We must fix what is broken and continue to stay ahead of the curve through better tourism management and mitigation to ensure a better quality of life for our residents now and in the future.
One great example of our Sedona in Motion program successes, is the trailhead shuttle service where 61,000 people were transported by hybrid buses in the first 29 days of its operation.*
* Sedona Shuttle – The free, easy and eco-friendly way to explore some of Sedona’s favorite trails! May 11, 2022 Special City Council – Sedona, AZ (swagit.com)
With the creation of a second southbound travel lane on 89A in Uptown, we saw a dramatic reduction in travel times moving cars from the canyon to Sedona.
The Sedona Trails & Pathways System (ST&PS, pronounced “steps”) is a city-wide network of non-motorized, shared-use pathways that are used by bicyclists, walkers, hikers, runners, and other users for both recreation and transportation. This does not include forest trails. At present, there are about 1.5 miles of ST&PS in Sedona. The overall master plan shows about 36 miles of future trails.*
*Sedona Trails & Pathways System (ST&PS) | City of Sedona (sedonaaz.gov)
What should the city do to address the issue of affordable housing, especially for people working in businesses in Sedona?
Sedona’s housing stock has always been more highly priced than other communities in the Verde Valley, creating shortages in workforce and affordable housing. The short-term rental explosion has further exacerbated the problem. Housing prices have skyrocketed. Who among us could afford to buy our own homes at today’s exorbitant prices?
I supported three actions to tackle the limited workforce housing options available in
- The hiring of a housing manager.
- The implementation of a down payment assistance program with Housing Solutions of Northern Arizona.
- A public-private partnership with Sunset Lofts, LLC for the development of a 46-unit apartment complex dedicated to the local workforce.
To develop the 46-unit workforce apartment project, the city will partner with the private sector, contributing up to $4.2 million in the form of a repayable loan to ensure long-term affordability. The vacant parcel at 220 Sunset Dr., where the project is planned, is already appropriately zoned for multi-family housing. The apartments will be deed-restricted for 50 years. This means that the complex cannot be used for short-term rentals nor converted to condos, for 50 years. These housing units will be available to people employed within the city limitswith full-time employment of 30-hours or more.
The down payment assistance program for those full-time employees provides a 2.5:1 match of the buyer’s funds with the same requirements as noted above. The employee’s job duties cannot be performed remotely. Qualifying buyers must have a household income at or below 150% of the area median income and must complete
Homebuyer Counseling through Housing Solutions of Northern Arizona. Eligible properties may be located anywhere in the Verde Valley.
As your next Mayor, I support incentivizing residents to rent out bedrooms in their homes to workers. I also want to pursue the feasibility of building tiny homes and the potential to create 3D printed homes.
What is the role of the Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau in the community?
The Chamber’s role should be tourism management, NOT tourism promotion. Council has directed the Chamber of Commerce to eliminate marketing promotion and “selling” Sedona.
I believe the legal separation of the Chamber of Commerce and the Tourism Bureau in the coming fiscal year is essential to eliminate any potential conflicts of interest caused by their common board and staff. I support the Sustainable Tourism Plan that was developed several years ago to focus on educating visitors (once they have arrived in our city) to act responsibly in the use and preservation of our sacred lands.
I was very supportive of the new initiative where three Council members conducted a “deep dive” into the existing contract and recommend changes to next year’s work plan priorities consistent with the new direction set by Council.
We own nearly 3 acres off Andante. Most profitable use for the land is vacation homes, but we wanted to help the community, so with the encouragement from city staff and several city councilors, we spent over $75,000 for plans to build 52 units of workforce housing.
Everyone in the community supported the project and cheered us on, except for some vocal neighbors who were living in old homes, mobile homes and prefabs homes. These neighbors complained loudly about radiation from the electric meters and road noise.
We had extensive studies done on the property including density and the traffic situation, which was addressed professionally. Traffic would actually be reduced because carpooling was proposed as the workforce would be concentrated and less workers would be driving in from surrounding cities.
At a public meeting neighbors showed up to complain. Few community members spoke-up in support of the project which included two teachers, a nurse, and the school district superintendent. NO ONE from the lodging council who strongly supported the project and many of whom told us they would be there in support of the project. We even had two buildings pre-leased to local hotels at which they were going to sublease to their workers.
The week after the meeting, the councilors who encouraged us with the project crawled into a hole, except for John Martinez, resulting in the city staff getting cold feet and canceling our project.
Do not be fooled – new leadership is required along with actual community support if workforce housing becomes a realization. There will always be opposition, but the true leaders are those who do what is best for our city and not their egos.