By Tommy Acosta
Sedona News — Some might have called it a great informational meeting. Others may have called it an exercise in futility. Some might say it was a little bit of both.
We are talking about the September 22 short-term rental community event at the OLLI Yavapai Community College sponsored by the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau and the Sedona Lodging Council.
It was well attended with more than 100 souls in attendance.
The City of Sedona was well represented with Sedona City Attorneys Kurt Christianson, Sedona City Manager Karen Osburn speaking on the issue.
Chamber CEO/President Candace Carr Strauss and Sedona Lodging Council President Steve Segner also spoke.
The meeting was facilitated by Andrea Christelle.
The aforementioned parties discussed the facts and myths about the city’s current sort term rental crisis.
The audience was mixed in its opposition or support of short-term rentals with about a third of those in attendance in favor of Airbnb’s.
The city and the chamber painted grim pictures of the proliferation od short-term rentals, citing the negative impact such rentals are having in the community and the exacerbation of parking, traffic, loss of sense of community and the impact it has had on affordable workforce housing.
One of the most sobering statistics was noted by Osburn where a 445 sg. ft. apartment is now costing $2,000 a month to rent and the medium rental price in Sedona stands close to $6,000 per month, with about only twelve rentals available in the city as of the date of the meeting.
Speakers covered the affect of these short-term rentals on the affordability of long term rentals. They also covered the impact they are starting to have on hotels resorts ad business as well, because workers can’t find housing in town and are not coming into Sedona to work, putting a tremendous strain on the hospitality business.
Strauss noted that if the trend continues with hotels losing customers this could affect the amount of bed tax collections and impact the city in the future.
Christianson made it pretty clear that Arizona’s Senate Bill 1350 that gave property owners the right to rent space in their homes, pretty much has tied the hands of the city as far as enforcing few restrictions, with The Private Property Rights Protection Act (Proposition 207) looming over it all should the city cause property owners to lose property value because of any negative action by it.
A number of cosmetic approaches to getting a better grip on the proliferation were discussed, such as forcing property owners to provide the city with emergency contact numbers. Still, pretty most other alternatives are stymied by the logistics involved and the laws on record.
As an example, homeowners are not allowed to turn their garages into living quarters but if one is suspected of doing so, it would take a judge to make an order to allow the city to go in and inspect.
Not likely, according to Osburn.
Bizely, who not only advertises short-term rentals but also runs a number of properties, agreed that there should be more cooperation between the city and short-term renters and that he would strive to lessen the negative impact short-term rentals have on the community.
As it stands now, whole house rentals that are basically just investments can go from just a business decision to a radical conversion of a house into a quasi hotel. They can have upwards of 20 or more people in the house, with improvements designed to create bedrooms out of spaces not designed for such, and in one case put six queen bunkbeds, enough for 12 adults in one room.
By the meeting’s end, it was agreed by the parties standing against the short-term rentals that the only way anything meaningful could be accomplished is through the state legislature.
Again, it appears the only course of action for all parties involved, until the state legislature could be lobbied to change the law, is to work together to mitigate the problem as it continues to blister.
The best we could hope for at this stage of the game is to work with the property owners to inform short-term renters on how to behave and give the city council every tool available to partner with builders to create workforce housing.
Watch the video of the entire two-hour meeting here below.