On Wednesday (July 24), I attended a Sedona city hall meeting where Rep. Bob Thorpe (R-Flagstaff) answered questions from residents who feel devastated by the impacts of short-term house rentals. These rentals include everything from owner-occupants renting rooms to corporations that are buying up houses and building 6,000-foot “mini-hotels.”
Most of those in the room were there to express rage at what has happened to Sedona since Senate Bill 1350 went into effect in January 2017. The bill, which Thorpe voted for, prohibits all Arizona cities and towns from banning short-term rentals. It also ended the already existing short-term bans in Sedona, Jerome and Scottsdale.
The audience of about 150 people spoke with sadness, fear and anger about the changes to their town: lack of affordable housing; loss of long-term rentals; problems with parking, traffic and noise; and absence of neighborhood identity. The audience very audibly gasped when the assistant city manager showed a graphic of west Sedona that was filled with hundreds of pink dots. Each dot represented a short-term rental.
Thorpe said that he voted for SB 1350 because he believes that laws should be uniform for all Arizona cities. In response, audience members spoke about the importance of local control and Sedona’s unique status as an international destination. One woman stated, “The one-size-fits-all approach is not working.”
Audience member Steve Segner asked, “Mr. Thorpe, did you co-sponsor the bill?” He replied, “Goodness. I don’t recall.” Segner said, “You did.”
When Thorpe suggested the possibility of owners hiring people to live on the properties, the audience responded with a resounding no. Also, in the audience were investors in the short-term market. One of these pointed out to Thorpe and the audience, “You can’t go back. That cat’s out of the bag.”
Thorpe ended by saying that his goal is to work with local officials and start to draft legislation for next January (when the 2020 legislative session begins). But he also warned, “If we take action, then guess what? Corporate investors will hire lobbyists.” I hope he wasn’t saying that he’s afraid of a few lobbyists. Surely not!