The Editor and Whatcom County
I am a 10-year homeowner in Point Roberts and thankful to be back. The All Point Bulletin recently ran a detailed article on Whatcom County’s ongoing considerations of short term rentals (STRs) and their effects on communities where they are found.
It is my assertion that, as far as Point Roberts is concerned, that this is a solution looking for a problem. We all know that this exclave community is unique in many ways – including formal and informal rentals of properties by owners to holiday makers and others. After speaking with some Whatcom County staff today, it was confirmed that noise/bad neighbor complaints would be directed to the sheriff’s office. In Point Roberts, a monthly report of calls is published and rarely, if ever, are noise or bad neighbor complaints seen – or heard for that matter. It is a matter of public record.
Where is the smoke? Where is the fire? Why bring out a cannon of legislation when a fly swatter is required?
If these draft amendments were to proceed, I sincerely ask that the principality of Point Roberts be excluded. Neighborly cooperation, respect and consideration is in full effect in our community – and a mechanism to right any wrongs (aka the sheriff) exists and is already paid for by our increasing tax dollars. Why spend a penny more when both the problem (which is dubious at best) and the solution (which already exists) are in plain sight?
STRs have very different effects upon every community. There are many justified applications of STR municipal bylaws around the world – I do not dispute this. Even citing the Harvard Business Review study of deleterious effects while applicable in New York City, is but a bogeyman here in Point Roberts. I would, however, like to see some kind of reporting of noise and related STR complaints over a number of years in Whatcom County – and Point Roberts in particular – to further justify council’s efforts.
Yes, a problem begets a solution, but what is the extent of the problem? Is there one in Point Roberts? Much time and staff effort (and tax dollars) since 2014 has gone into this issue. The registration, collection of fees, administration and monitoring of this new class of taxes will cost yet more taxpayer money that Whatcom County requires for other critical issues. Yes, this ordinance could be revenue/cost neutral, but why such bother? Like much of life, it is the few (STRs) that create difficulty for the many (aka the tyranny of the minority).
I question why this issue is even being pursued? A barrage of complaints? An opportunity by hotels, motels and more traditional B and Bs to control their competition? Of course, Granicus would like to extend their system from the city of Bellingham to the county of Whatcom. The city says “high degree of satisfaction”... maybe so, but why impose this elsewhere if not required? So the Granicus STR regulation website might make more profit for their shareholders?
In summation, Point Roberts is in desperate need to bring visitors and their spending to local merchants after the effects of Covid-19 shut downs. Providing STR accommodations to those visitors is vital and absolutely necessary. It is important that Whatcom County not impede or otherwise hinder the citizens of Point Roberts to aid in their economic recovery. I respectfully suggest that more important items such as reinstating the Bellingham ferry, reconsidering the mandatory charging of garbage pickup (vs purchasing tags), the potential purchase of the marina by the Port of Bellingham, or recent huge hikes in property taxes should take much more precedence in council’s agenda.
Stephen R. Deller
Whatcom County Council and Point Roberts Community Advisory Committee (PRCAC) intends to benefit from short term rental fees by granting a profitable contract to Granicus with the ostensible reason that is to deal with noise, garbage and rental supply issues. When county council mandated homeowners pay fees with their property taxes for bi-weekly garbage, we were told that it would solve garbage problems.
Noise, like garbage, is a social problem that cannot be addressed with legislation or fees, because enforcement of immediate problems must be solved face-to-face. Unless the intent of legislation, fees, etc. is to force the sale of vacation homes that owners cannot maintain for their exclusive use, long-term rentals would not increase rental supply as price and availability is determined by housing stock, purchase price and cost-to-hold (taxes, fees, maintenance and management cost etc.).
Since real estate today is sold in packages on the stock exchange as well as internet websites, purchase price is expensive. Only professional holding companies who have many ways to advertise may be left. Another issue for consideration is that restriction and use of private property by legislation and zoning may constitute “taking without compensation” as a constitutional and economic policy that has been litigated to the Supreme Court with property owners winning. The county is disadvantaged when the only players left are not modest homes of individual homeowners who wish to take a vacation from their home.
Noise, traffic and garbage are best solved by ordinance so they can be written into leases with appropriate penalties by the parties involved. Neighbors affected can call 911 if infractions are egregious. In Point Roberts, because of the water surrounding us, noise can be heard from The Reef and Breakwater areas to the border. Loud bass sounds can be felt. Maybe ear plugs, like “fences make good neighbors,” would be a good investment.
Legislation is not sufficient when a great portion of the population eat their take-out in the parking lot, put the garbage beside their car and drive away or dispose of old tires in vacant lots. That is why social issues are social issues.
The Editor and members of Whatcom County Council:
I attended your April 4 in-person meeting of council. I stayed for all three hours.
I was interested in the personal accounts of citizens who attended your meeting and voiced their concerns, mostly about crime and homelessness. It was shocking to hear the accounts of the criminal activity Whatcom County folks are facing daily including just recently in Everson.
Point Roberts is the only community in Whatcom County that has no crime to speak of and no homelessness at all.
You need to remember that. Since none of you have visited Point Roberts and have to rely on articles in the local press and rumors to make decisions. Point Roberts has a rental housing problem and the problem stems from Canadian homeowners who choose to rent their second homes on Airbnb and not rent them to locals. Or not rent them at all.
There are plenty of vacant surplus homes in Point Roberts. Particularly since the population has dropped to approximately 850 from a high of 1,200. Too many renters cannot afford to pay more than $900 a month when the landlords want $1,500 or more.
We are losing American workers in the trades and services who cannot afford to buy or rent at these inflated prices. So they leave the Point.
Canadians don’t care, they already own homes in Canada. Their summer homes in Point Roberts are bought and paid for.
1. I suggest you do an audit of the money, grants, etc. that have been shoveled into Point Roberts over the past two years. I suggest that some of this money has not gone to improving local businesses, but other personal uses.
2. Whatever dollars the county wants to continue to funnel into Point Roberts should be directed to keeping the doors open at the International Marketplace food store, which has been struggling since the pandemic began.
You can’t keep a low profit margin business like a grocery store operating when your business is down 90 percent, as it continues to be, despite lifting border restrictions.
If the Marketplace closes, the full-time American residents of Point Roberts will not have a source of fresh food. They will have to cross the border into Canada to shop for food and basic necessities, which is ridiculous.
3. Put in regulations regarding Airbnb rentals, similar to Atlanta, Georgia and Vancouver, B.C., which include:
– Only two Airbnbs allowed, and one must be a primary residence.
– Permits required at $150 each.
– You must inform your neighbors as it impacts them as well.
In Point Roberts, just like everywhere else, decent rental housing has become commoditized due to a speculative real estate market and greedy homeowners.
Looking forward to seeing you in Point Roberts for closer look at the situation.
It has been too long since you visited.
North Vancouver and Point Roberts
I am a new(ish) homeowner in Point Roberts with a concern over the (mis)management of the Seabright steps. The steps have been closed now since January for “maintenance” although it’s unclear that any maintenance is needed or that any work has been done. Kathryn Trainer, whom I believe is the wife of the current Seabright groundskeeper and not a spokesperson for Seabright, has been posting cautionary notes on NextDoor hinting that the residents (as you know there are only a handful) may try to permanently close the steps. When challenged on her statement, she launched attacks and shut down commenting on the post.
A neighbor on my block dug up the permit originally granted to Seabright which requires them to offer trails and steps to the public, including maintenance. I am concerned that Seabright is not – and has no intention of – living up to their end of the bargain.
I believe this is a very concerning private encroachment on the public’s access to the beach.
I do hope you will cover this in the paper and attempt to obtain an actual statement from Seabright on their plans – whether or not they intend to comply with their obligations as stewards of public access trails and stairs.
The Editor and Vladimir Putin, politician and leader:
Sir, the spotlight of world opinion is on you. It appears you have decided to punish peoples who separated from the former Soviet Union to enlarge your own political image and strength.
How? By subjugating such peoples, and by destroying what little they have achieved while out from under Moscow’s thumb.
Was there no alternative? Could you not have spent a fraction of yours and Mother Russia’s world stature by offering to help these separated peoples while reminding populations involved of the opportunities and rewards of strengthening ties with the current, mighty Mother Russia?
Imagine how easily Mother Russia – under your leadership – could have enticed Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and even Ukraine to broaden relations and commerce with Russia.
Think how long Finland elected to remain on neutral terms with Russia while resisting the appeal of joining the NATO family of nations. Even Georgia has not scorned Russia. Other areas, such as Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey, even Moldova, could likely have seen the benefits of closer ties with an enlightened Russia under your leadership.
What is it about politics that causes countries to miss such opportunities? How is it that the military destruction of everything Ukrainians have achieved became necessary to you? Is it unchecked power and authority that leads political leaders down destructive paths?
I am merely an ordinary American citizen, but I am not unfamiliar with the unproductive political roads of the past. Even now, here in the U.S., we are watching a major political party condemn itself as it blindly embraces the destruction of basic female reproductive rights and seeks to enact legislation wherever they’re able that would limit selected voting rights.
Regrets to you for Russia’s missed opportunities. Apologies to Ukraine for Russia’s unwise actions, as well as to women in the U.S., for the U.S. Supreme Court’s gross miscarriage of justice and its failure to overturn state legislation designed to erect barriers to voting by selected categories of citizens of certain states.
It’s time for the U.S. to remove or repeal the Second Amendment. These gun fanatics love their weapons more than their children. More children in the U.S. die from guns than any other cause. Enough! This must end now! We control smoking, driving, drinking, borders, and not weapons? Insane! This violent state of the nation must end, or it will no longer survive.
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