If the dozen of comments made by Whispering Pines residents over the past week are any indication, not many in the village would agree that good fences are good neighbors.
Most of the comments submitted for another public hearing during the village council meeting on Aug. 12 shared the same view on short-term home rentals.
Two amendments to regulations proposed more than 55 public comments in two separate hearings that evening. Most of these have been submitted electronically and read by the village clerk, Linda Christopher, as social distancing requirements still limit attendance at meetings.
Whispering Pines hasn’t seen an influx of activity since the advent of platforms like Airbnb and VRBO. These websites streamline the process for homeowners looking to rent all or part of their homes to visitors.
But the village council is now for the first time considering adding regulations for this short-term rental activity before there is any chance of getting too intrusive.
The proposed regulation would prevent Whispering Pines homeowners from renting out their entire home on “short-term” terms, defined as less than 30 days. There is also an annual “host family permit” for homeowners who rent out individual rooms in their homes for up to 30 days each.
It also enables “random vacation rentals” for no more than 14 days per calendar year, primarily so that homeowners can capitalize on major golf tournaments taking place on neighboring golf courses.
Most of the 31 residents who contributed during the hearing supported the proposal, although some were also opposed to allowing any type of short-term rental.
Residents who advocate banning entire home rentals fear that if they are profitable, more homes in Whispering Pines will be sold to vacationers for the express purpose of renting them. Many of the comments expressed concern that short-term renters know little about the rules of the village or take into account the people around them.
They also fear the loss of established residents would break the community if more than a handful of homes in the village are set for short-term rentals.
“We believe that if short-term rentals are allowed, some people can buy houses in our village to rent,” said a comment by Alex and Becky Cameron. “This would be very difficult for our residents who own homes next to rental properties and have tenants who come and go more like a motel than a neighborhood.”
About half a dozen comments backed homeowners’ permission to rent out an entire apartment. Some of them came from residents who rented out second homes to visitors long before the internet offered convenient opportunities for these transactions.
Curtis Richie, whose family has rented an address on Windsong Place since 1990, said short-term renters mean traffic for businesses in and around the village. He also said that some of his regular tenants are former Whispering Pines residents themselves.
“This area is a vacation destination. People want to come here and spend money while they are on vacation, ”said Richie.
“I just had a tenant here for US kids (golf championships) for two weeks. It was the seventh year in a row that the same family has been here for US Kids. They played golf every day, they took several trips to the grocery store, they went to Whispering Pies, they went to Whispering Woods to eat. “
Jean McGrayne also opposed the proposed regulation. She wrote to point out that short-term rents are not new to the village and that residents sometimes use them to visit family and friends.
“I didn’t sign the petition against home sharing because I’ve used Airbnb and VRBO services hundreds of times, both nationally and internationally. I found it hypocritical to be welcome in the neighborhoods and homes of so many wonderful people I have met on my travels, but so elitist that I would not welcome them to mine. The entire effort smells like racism and exclusion, ”McGrayne wrote before wondering how the regulation would be enforced.
“Why do certain people feel it necessary to add an additional regulation that the village administration cannot realistically monitor and leave it to the neighbors to spy on neighbors? Are these the Whispering Pines we want to live in? “
The proposed host family rental rules limit occupancy to two guests per bedroom. specify that the maximum number of bedrooms available is one less than the total number in the house; and prohibit homeowners from sanctioning special events or large gatherings related to the rental.
One of the filings at Dawn Heddings’ public hearing on Wednesday was a petition asking the village council to ban the short-term rental of entire homes except for the US Open Championships. Christopher said the petition had more than 200 resident signatures.
“Our community is exactly the product that landlords market and use,” wrote Linda Vandercook. “We are a community, our houses and our residents are not props like the characters in Disneyland.”
Several comments also suggested that an increase in short-term rental properties could drive away lifelong residents and traditional tenants alike.
“Since homeowners can make a lot more money per night with short-term rentals, the availability of longer leases for entire homes is limited,” wrote Greta Nintzel. “There are people who need access to rental properties at a fair market price that is not artificially increased by short-term rental of houses.”
Life under “palisades”?
The village council also commented on a proposal from the residents to relax the fence height restriction of the village in its agricultural residential area.
Currently, the village limits the outdoor fence height to 48 inches, with individual exceptions for homes where people with mental or developmental disabilities live. In this case, fences can be up to 60 inches tall.
But Whispering Pines staff and village council members have heard from dozens of residents who would like to see this change. In June, the Planning and Zoning Authority unanimously agreed to recommend that the village set a permissible fence height of up to 72 inches.
This proposal received five supportive comments and 20 opponents last week.
“It would be easier to have a clearer opinion on this particular issue if we know the motivation behind the amendment,” said Bill Bruton.
“Some people have asked for it. Why? What is your need? It would be really nice to know what is driving that. … There are many of us who do not want to live between and between other people’s palisades. “
Those who support looser fence restrictions cite safety and the need for better barriers to keep unsupervised children away from swimming pools and other potential hazards.
“In my brief tenure as a Whispering Pines resident, I have personally seen several cases of children as young as four climbing over a fence to get a ball or visit a neighbor,” wrote Michael Morris.
“As a local resident looking to install a swimming pool in the near future, I am very concerned about the safety of young children in the neighborhood and the liability that an incident would bring.”
Further discussion planned
Residents in and around the Summerfield neighborhood asked the village council to look into the proposal so they could build protective fences. Emily White wrote that her neighborhood is bordered by a busy road and the contractor did not leave trees or bushes to shield houses and backyards from each other.
“Understandably, this may not be the case for those who live in old neighborhoods with fully grown shrubs and trees and are not exposed to these circumstances,” she wrote.
Most residents, who had asked the village council to vote against the proposal and maintain the status quo, cited aesthetic concerns and feared that higher fences could interfere with the feeling of openness in the more established parts of Whispering Pines.
But others also had security concerns: visibility around corner properties and the screened-off backyards could encourage crime. Others fear that the greatest loss would be spontaneous conversations between neighbors and the occasional development of relationships.
“With the change in the types of residents moving into and out of the village, I feel it is more important than ever that we encourage and support that sense of community and community,” wrote Nancy Rose. “Privacy fences don’t do that.”
Betty and Matt Kuhn were clearer in their letter: “High privacy fences turn good neighbors into a collection of isolated cubicles and destroy the community spirit.”
After two hours of public hearing on Wednesday, the village council did not start a discussion on either topic. Both topics are expected to be on the agenda of the Council’s working session on August 27th.
Comments are closed.