Tom Clyde: Preserving functioning neighborhoods |

Tom Clyde: Preserving functioning neighborhoods

Tom Clyde: Preserving functioning neighborhoods

Tom Clyde

Park Record columnist Tom Clyde.

There’s nothing like a May snow storm to remind us that we are only passengers on this planet. The Memorial Day weekend was a complete washout—cold, wet, snowy. Alta had 16 inches of new snow, making it one of the bigger storms of the season. Reports are that it was very good skiing, although the base underneath has to be getting pretty thin. Novelty aside, I’m ready for summer and no matter how good the skiing might have been, I wasn’t interested.

I’d like to think we are through with the cold weather now, but year in and year out, there is always one more hard freeze about June 10. The weirdness of the weather this year just continues, and I’ve given up guessing what it will do. Weather aside, summer is officially underway: Yellowstone reported the first tourist gored while trying to pet a buffalo, so it’s game on.

The hot topic locally is short term rentals. They have been with us since the ski resort opened, and are an important part of the resort lodging product. Some areas were developed with that use in mind—second homes at the least, but more often than not, second homes that land in the short term rental market. It seems completely expected with condos in Deer Valley (and is a bit of a problem when people choose not to put them in the rental pool because the resort was counting on those beds for guests). It seems completely unexpected in a single family house in Silver Springs.

The Board of Realtors has their earnest money in a bunch over a proposed moratorium on new licenses in the County. In addition to a kind of knee-jerk reaction against any regulation of land use, the Realtors are quite rightly concerned that there are properties under contract now that may be affected by the change. If a buyer is counting on short term rental to make the deal work, and the house could get a license when the contract was signed, but can’t by the time closing comes around, it’s likely to cause some problems. Re-zoning happens, but usually with some warning.

A new wrinkle in all this is shared ownership. A company called Pacaso is buying properties and then selling undivided ownership interest in them. They are a kind of real estate match-maker that connects several people who want to own a piece of a vacation home, bundles it into a limited liability company, and sells the unrelated owners a share of the company. Pacaso then manages the property. It’s not exactly a timeshare, but it quacks like one.

The City is trying to regulate that undivided ownership. I’m not sure how you get there. How you choose to hold title to your house seems to be the owner’s decision. Celebrity owners might not want their names to appear on the title, making their address public record. So they buy properties through LLCs. Families use that as a tool for estate planning, parking the vacation home in an LLC and gradually transferring interests in the company to their kids to dodge estate taxes. Friends who jointly buy a vacation place might use the LLC as a shield against possible liabilities that might spill over from the other owners’ problems. You might be willing to share a house with your brother in law, but don’t want to share his IRS problems.

It’s a very difficult issue. The goal is to preserve some kind of real, functional community here. We want to preserve actual neighborhoods with residents who look after each other, whose kids play together, shovel each other’s snow, and annoy the hell out of each other sometimes. It’s a hard call. All of us have had neighbors we wish would move—the barking dogs, unmuffled motorcycles, crappy maintenance and old tractors on the front lawn. We’ve also had great neighbors who come to the rescue when you need a hand, keep an eye on our elderly parents, put out our trash when we’re gone, and show up with the jumper cables when the battery is dead. Quite often, they are the same neighbors. We love them, we hate them, but we mostly know them. That’s entirely different from the anonymous weekly turn over.

The concern with the short term rentals is that loss of a functioning neighborhood, with all the give and take that entails. Vacationers may be in the hot tub until 2:00 a.m. and the full-timers have to show up at work in the morning. People talk about traffic and parking, which would be issues in Old Town or some condo neighborhoods where parking is subject to all kinds of formal and informal protocols. All of that seems like ways of describing that fundamental issue of what makes a neighborhood. Do you live in a neighborhood or in a hotel? There are advantages to both. The goal ought to be clarity, so people know what they are getting into.


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