No easy answers on VRBO issue

Is it a win-win? A lose-lose? Any way you slice it, there  are simply no easy answers when it comes to figuring out a way to find a balance when it comes to the hot-button issue of how many vacation rentals should be allowed in Custer and where those vacation rentals should be allowed to operate.
At the latest meeting of the Custer City Council, the council voted 3-2 to put a moratorium of sorts on new vacation rentals within residentially zoned areas in town. There are likely several reasons for this, but the largest driving force seems to be the lack of housing in Custer. And make no mistake about it, there is a severe lack of housing in Custer. Forget affordable housing, there is no where to live, period.
We at the Chronicle are experiencing the effects of this as much as anyone. As you can tell by the large yellow ad in this paper (seriously, if you know someone who can write a little and wants even a part-time job, let us know. We can train them up on what they need to know) we are looking for a new employee. Every time we think we are about to hire one, the issue of where they would live comes up. For the last person, it was a deal-breaker. He couldn’t find a place to live. It’s gotten to the point we’re going to pretty much be forced to hire someone within commuting distance.
 But is it a homeowners’ responsibility to provide affordable long-term or affordable housing in town? Probably not. Long-term renters can be a pain. They can trash your house. They can be late on rent. Evicting someone takes months. It’s much, much easier to rent a house as a vacation rental and make three times in a year what you would make if you rented it long-term. Granted, that isn’t helping the greater good whatsoever. But you can’t force people to want to do that, and we can’t even say we would want to do it if we could make all that other money.
Having said that, we certainly wouldn’t want to live next to what is a glorified hotel. People constantly coming and going, never knowing who is living there, additional traffic, children, whoever shows up. There are a lot of unknowns when you’re living next to a vacation rental. It doesn’t make for much of a neighborhood, although I know the argument has been made you don’t get to pick your neighbors no matter where you live. We kind of like the idea presented by Rafael Murrillo at the council meetings, where you could do a hosted vacation rental, which admittedly wouldn’t solve all the problems offered by the opposition, but certainly would mitigate some of them.
It’s an issue we can easily see both sides of, and argue for both sides. That is what makes it so difficult. This isn’t a problem unique to Custer. Towns all across the country are wrestling with this issue. Hill City just passed a refererndum to ban any new vacation rentals in its town in residential areas.
Our guess is that is where this is headed in Custer, too. A petition will be circulated and a referendum presented. Ultimately, the residents of Custer will end up making the decision. In the interim, everyone will continue to try to do what they feel is best in what increasingly looks like an issue with zero easy answers.

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