Us against Them: Short-term rental feud

By on August 7, 2014

If there’s one issue that really galvanizes our local populace it’s affordable housing. And it’s an issue that’s been brought, once again, to the forefront – this time by some elected officials indecisive about enforcing land development regulations for short-term rentals.

While it’s clear that the town and county need to be more proactive about addressing the housing shortage, and that merely enforcing the regulations currently on the books will not suffice towards that end, it’s also undeniable that looking the other way on short-term rentals has a negative effect on the housing stock. Those officials who voted yes Monday night to continue to ban short-term rentals should be applauded for their votes.

But it’s worth examining some of the arguments made by the Clear Creek Group in an email it sent to would-be supporters of a business model that relies on brokering illegal short-term vacation rentals in residential neighborhoods. It’s also worth pointing out that not only did the Clear Creek Group provide a handy list of talking points, but it also asked supporters to refrain from mentioning the Clear Creek Group by name. As of press time, Clear Creek Group general manager, Kevin Kavanagh, did not return a call for comment on this email.

Among its claims:

“As you are likely aware, a change to Teton County Regulations concerning non-resort zone rentals has been proposed…”

This is not true. No changes have been proposed. The regulations have been on the books for 20 years. CCG’s attorneys proposed an interpretation of the law that was clearly wrong, and while it may have a good malpractice suit against its lawyers, it does not excuse the company from the law. These laws were on the books 10 years before CCG even existed.

“Current regulations allow any homeowner in Teton County… to rent his or her home once in any 30 day period.”

In fact, they specifically bar these rentals, as an 8-1 vote by town and county just reaffirmed.

“If passed, the proposed regulation would unilaterally take away a property right our homeowners had when they purchased their properties: the right to rent that home once every 30 days.”

Again, they never had that right.

“Vacation rentals are a trend that must be recognized, embraced, and harnessed. The concept is here to stay. We believe attempts to legislate around this trend is shortsighted and unwise.”

In other words, the market has decided that this will happen, and the rest of us are powerless to resist as our rents continually skyrocket, and our neighborhoods are turned into resorts instead of places to plant roots or raise families.

“Decisions should not be influenced by an emotional, vocal minority, but should be made by quantifying problems, addressing them analytically, and then implementing those solutions with reasonable and practical methods of enforcement.”

So the needs and emotions of our community have no place in this discussion? Instead, CCG says we should rely on accountants and economists to determine a course of action that will result in the most profits (profits which will, of course, go to CCG and their clients).

“Do what is fair and reasonable for owners and businesses who have dutifully complied with the regulations.”

Again, they have not complied with the regulations, but, rather, have assisted homeowners in violating them repeatedly on the basis of legal advice they bought which has now been proven wrong.

“This is a complex issue, further complicated by emotion…”

Emotion, apparently, has no place in CCG’s analysis.

“Please note that any confirmed rentals will not be impacted by this decision.”

Presumably this means that CCG is confident it can continue to ignore the law with impunity. And this gets to the heart of the matter. When the public sees the wealthy and the connected flout the law with no consequences, while they themselves are arrested, imprisoned and fined for the most minor of offenses, it destroys the credibility of the law and the cohesion of our community. While the mere existence of this debate weakened our confidence in local government, we can at least be grateful that, in the end, they did the right thing.


About Pete Muldoon

6 Comments

  1. Hottie

    August 7, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    Short-Term Rentals – I could argue either side of the issue but I’ll stick with my preference. Make them illegal. How many of these homeowners work and live in Jackson full-time? My guess is none. If we must have them, I would prefer that short-term rentals be limited to a fixed number of total days per year if the units are on small lots in neighborhoods. Some 20,000 square foot second home down Fall Creek has little effect on our community or its neighborhood if it’s rented out every day of the year but a unit in east Jackson is a different story.

    Rentals managed by a company like CCG need to be inspected and comply with all regulations for public safety that pertain to hotels. And they need to pay the same taxes and fees. Weekly rates at $100,000? WOW. That’s BIG MONEY. They can afford to play by the rule book just like hotels when that kind of cash moves around. The Mayor was out-of-line with his aggressive efforts to circumvent the rules and secretly get the State to agree with his way of thinking. It looked like a special-interest back-room deal that the public was uninvited to know about. Who’s got him in their back pocket? Follow the money. The Clear Creek Group? Clearly. Let’s hope they go down in flames with the ol’ Mayor.

  2. Local with a rant

    August 8, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    Clearly, I know not much of the law, and this is the way I personally see the situation. These are multi million dollar homes. First of all, no one around here is going to have the money to rent them long term, so why not allow the town to make some money off these short terms that are already established and restrict new ones? Second, as someone that is currently trying to purchase property, or a home, the town of Jackson and all its red tape totally screws over the normal, everyday person that is trying to make a home here. Hey, found a great piece of property, want to split it with another couple and put two houses on it. NOPE. No more than one single family home on new builds under 35 acres. Seriously!? Who has enough money to buy 35 acres here aside from someone that is buying it to put a 15 million dollar house on!? People say, well, they should have to rent their house to locals. No, first of all they would have to put rent rate control on the property, then there would probably be about 10 people to each house, and last, if I worked my butt off to afford a vacation home like that, the LAST thing I would want is the town trying to tell me what I can do with it. I think all in all, this is going to drive business out of Teton County and it is going to do NOTHING to solve the housing situation. I also think that Jackson should take a look at all its own regulations that prevent the common person from being able to make a home here.

    • Local with a rant

      August 8, 2014 at 1:39 pm

      I would also like to add that there are very little regulations on long term rentals and the management companies here suck. My rent is going up AGAIN in November and its on the very top end of what I can afford. At this point they are going to drive out people looking to make a home and create a shuffle of a frat house, where they are packing 2 people in every bedroom just to make rent. Is that what you want in the community?

  3. JH Native

    August 8, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    My rent is also going up, and its not because of short term rentals, its because of the housing shortage for those of the working class. Rental companies are aware of this and stand to make a bigger profit from the increased rates.

    Why would the Gov’t want to control short-term rentals? Well, it makes sense for them to if they want a continued reason to expand upon their ownership of land in the form of affordable housing. Having short-term rentals actually increase the economic base of the Valley in the form of private companies increasing their profits in the one hand, and in the other, the increased visitors bring increased expenditures to local businesses which increase their profits on the other hand. The increased profits can translate well, if the local businesses are smart, in increased employee housing or increased income for the employee who then can make the decision to rent/buy in the Valley or go elsewhere if housing is still to high, which we all know is still the case.

    By disallowing short term rentals, the Gov’t stands to make out better with the increased felt need for subsidized housing, which increases their ownership, and control, of housing, essentially perpetuating and sustaining their income.

    I say allow for short-term rentals and allow the entrepreneurs and business owners to re-balance the JH economy and keep bigger Gov’t out of our business.

    • Manny

      August 9, 2014 at 8:12 pm

      The “increased visitors bring increased” needs for more employee housing.

  4. Manny

    August 9, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    It’s funny how the many of the folks who scream about stuff like the berm at the old Puzzleface Ranch along Hwy 22 are often the very ones who want to rent out their property. Apparently, private property rights are great when you own the property but horrible if it’s your neighbor’s property rights that “negatively” affect you…

    …personally, I like the berm and the wildlife it attracts and the idea of hiding housing on the property. I like the idea of doing whatever I want with my property and would never buy into a neighborhood with a homeowners association or excessive government oversight. If you don’t like the rules in Jackson/Teton County – LEAVE!!!! That will provide more housing for those that do.

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