Short-Term Rentals: Where do you stand?
In the last issue of The Pinewood News, we requested feedback from our readers regarding short-term rentals.
The Pinewood News received many thoughtful emails, from both sides, on the subject. Hosts were passionate about their rentals and adamant they were a win for Munds Park. The locals documented their hardships and were dispirited by the lack of tools to protect them from vacationers taking over their neighborhoods.
Rather than writing for both sides, I invited Rachael Drummond, an investor and advocate for responsible Hosting here in Munds Park, to make a case for short-term rentals. I read through all the emails sent to the Pinewood News, talked with community members, and weaved in their hardships with my personal experience living next to multiple short-term rentals, and I will make the case against them.
Get comfortable, grab some coffee or a cocktail, read both sides and see where you land.
The Case for Short Term Rentals
We’re Investing in Memories
By Rachael Drummond
First, I’d like to say thank you Sandee and The Pinewood News for giving us a platform to share our story with the community, bring light to the diverse ways STRs benefit the small community of Munds Park, and bringing us into the fold to work alongside other community leaders to find ways we can make sharing our beautiful community with short term renters better for all.
Our story isn’t much different from the hundreds of other short-term rental hosts who’ve purchased in Munds Park. To invest in memories. To invest in moments watching our children fish at the lake, or ride bikes through forest trails, play board games on a deck, or take a nap in a hammock under tall swaying pines.
For as long as he can remember, owning a cabin surrounded by cool pines was always a dream for my husband, and after going through a few years of family loss, in 2019 we decided to make that dream a reality.
When we decided to start sharing our home with short-term renters we found a need for communication and transparency amongst hosts within Munds Park. We were in need of guidance, advice, and feedback, and the community was in need of consistency and standards that would benefit neighbors and businesses. Over the last two years since the Munds Park Host page has been active we’ve been busy! Busy learning from each other’s mistakes and successes, and helping establish new standards for responsible hosting in Munds Park. As a collective, we place an emphasis on spending local, from giving our guests recommendations to local eateries and hangouts, to hiring local home cleaners, vendors, and tradespeople. We estimate that STRs account for an average of 40% of the business our vendors & trades receive.
In fact, we recently polled our members to get a better picture of what their expenses looked like in 2021. We requested data on revenue spent ONLY with local Munds Park vendors, tradespeople, and home cleaners, of the 40 members who participated in the poll, the revenue they contributed to Munds Park businesses is significant.
Snow Plow/Landscape/Pine Needle removal- over $22,000
Local Cleaners- over $185,000
Trade Vendors- over $230,000
(Handymen, General Contractors, Hardscape install, Electricians, Plumbers, HVAC specialists)
Considering roughly 10% of the homes in Munds Park are Vacation Rentals, these figures only account for around 14% of the entire Host population in our community.
Through working with local trades and vendors to upgrade and remodel our homes, we’ve been able to have a direct impact on beautifying the community.
As a group we are grateful to be a part of this community and to have the opportunity to help so many local entrepreneurs grow and provide for their families. We are working hard to grow our reach to other STR owners in Munds so that we can help them develop a standard for responsible hosting. We’ve found that when a few changes are implemented it makes hosting guests a better experience for our neighbors, and ourselves.
Looking forward to working together as neighbors and friends so that we may all enjoy our little slice of heaven!
The Case Against Short-Term Rentals
The Airbnb Effect Threatens Our Small Town
By Sandee Caviness
Yes, we are addressing the elephant in the Park. Locals have had it with short-term rentals, and some are considering leaving, some who have been here for generations. Some are already gone.
Munds Park is the feeling of being laid back, a place you can slow-roll through the hills and trails and be hugged all around by the Coconino National Forest. During the day we enjoy clear blue skies, and by night the stars shine bright. The fresh air, the sights and sounds of the forest gift us all with a feeling of peace and gratitude.
Within the natural beauty of the Park is a deep connection between community members. We’re like family. We work, volunteer, and celebrate together. We even argue, gossip, and point fingers. We are connected, and when a hand is needed, a hand is extended. We will search day and night to find your missing dog, roam the forest snuffing out fire dangers, and pick up litter left behind by others. We pray when someone is ill and feed and lift those in need. We watch out for each other, and we care for our land. We share our homemade goods, homegrown vegetables, and our friendship. Our community is only a romantic story for most, but for Mundsies, this is our way of life.
Our community, and all the gifts that go with it, come from the people. It doesn’t matter if they are full-time or seasonal locals—they are who we become familiar with, get to know, learn to trust, and build relationships with. As our neighbors are replaced with revolving strangers whose only care is to have a good time, the foundation of our community weakens and slowly becomes a romantic story of what was.
Advocates for short-term rentals boast they contribute more to the community’s economy than their neighbors, and they argue that’s a win. That argument might work if Munds Park relied on tourism dollars to survive. But we don’t.
We estimate that 10% of Munds Park housing is now short-term rentals, setting us up to become the next casualty of the Airbnb Effect. What is the Airbnb Effect? This refers to the negative impact short-term rentals have on communities—especially quaint and attractive communities like ours. It contributes to overtourism, housing shortages, rising rents, higher property taxes, and lowers the quality of living for their neighbors. All of these factors tear down communities.
Locals don’t have to have a short-term rental (STR) next door to notice the changes in the Park. Everyone has heard the complaints—The constant buzzing of ATVs at all hours, cars cluttering neighborhood streets, blowing trash, excessive lighting threatening our dark sky community, and the blatant disregard for our forest and trails. Moreover, locals get uneasy with each new influx of visitors ignorant of fire restrictions. Visitors can put us on ‘Set’ with one seemingly innocent fire on a windy day and flash—We’re on the run.
Community members who have one, two, three, and yes, even four STRs next to them experience a lower level of satisfaction and comfort within their neighborhoods.
Imagine for a moment, you wake up one beautiful Friday morning and take a deep breath of fresh air as you walk outside... and there it is. Newly arrived guests. A gaggle of friends ready for a party, a large family with kids bursting to break free, eight offroaders with huge trucks and trailers blocking driveways and streets. Whatever the combination is this weekend, your first thought is, “Oh Lord. Please let these people be cool.” And you spend your weekend on guard while the guests play.
The weekend is over, you survived another group of intruders, and you walk out on your porch on a bright Monday morning, take in a deep breath of fresh air... and there it is. The guest overstuffed the garbage can. The wind blew, the animals came, and as you run through the yard with coffee splashing about, trying to catch the beer can as it rolls past your reach, you wonder how can people be so inconsiderate? And we’re not talking about the guest—we’re talking about our neighbors cashing in on their homes at our expense.
It doesn’t matter how professional and attentive a Host may be; they cannot control their guest when they are not there. So when screaming kids trespass on your property while parents get drunk on the porch, when parties get loud and last into the morning hours, when cars litter the streets, when the trash overflows and flys through the air, when dogs unfamiliar with where they are bark until the guests get back, or outdoor fires burn on windy days—it’s not the owner of the STR handling that initial contact. No, they leave that up to their neighbors. We become unpaid custodians having to coordinate the appropriate service to manage the troubles caused by their guests.
There used to be an excellent solution to separating vacationers from the locals so each could live their lives in harmony. They called them Hotels. But in 2011, the STR industry was conceived, and by 2014 became an invasive industry eating up neighborhoods and taking over whole towns, crushing them with tourism.
As locals leave and as investors roll in, the ties that hold us together will slowly unravel, and the identity of Munds Park will soon become unrecognizable. Don’t believe me? Ask Sedona.
At some point, realtors, investors, and homeowners who turn homes into hotels will have to ask themselves, “Am I really a force for good and honestly helping the community I claim to love?” I don’t think it’s a deep dig to figure it out. When owners of STRs are reluctant to be upfront with neighbors, I think that answers the question. When admins of Host groups are afraid to post about even positive efforts being made, I think that answers the question. When cleaning professionals tell new STR hosts, “Don’t tell your neighbors, they will hate you,” I think that answers the question. When property coordinators introduce themselves to a group and say, “I know you all hate me, but...” I think that answers the question. When you ask people in the profession if they would like an STR next to their home, and you get a resounding “No.”, that undoubtedly answers the question.
The question for Mundsies is, what are we going to do about it?
Short-term rentals are here. Now what?
Whether we like it or not, short-term rentals are here, and regulating them is difficult, compliments of Governor Doug Ducey.
Fortunately, many towns across the US and Europe are having success in creating and passing laws that help alleviate the negative impact short-term rentals have on communities. Our neighbor, Sedona, has made some gains in this area too.
Having regulations that hold STRs to a high standard, enforced with penalties, is greatly needed. But that will take time, determination, and community members willing to take action. The following two groups are doing just that.
The Pinewood Property Association (PPOA) has fielded a barrage of complaints from the locals frustrated with STRs. Trying to find solutions, Tom Eade, a PPOA Board member, has been working closely with Matt Ryan, District 3 Supervisor for Coconino County, supporting laws that would regulate STRs. The PPOA is also actively working with The Munds Park Host Group.
The Munds Park Host Group, established by Rachael Drummond, along with Traci Randolph, and Katy Hibbert Griffith, have been setting standards for Hosts in the Park since February 2020. They advocate for responsible Hosting, work on giving back to the community, and support efforts to develop legally enforceable regulations. They are not only working with the PPOA, they welcome it.
So, where to go from here?
As mentioned, Tom Eade has been working with Matt Ryan on Bills regulating short-term rentals. Three bills were being considered. Two fell apart, and the one remaining bill (Senate Bill 1168), Matt suggests that it dies too. Matt states there are flaws in SB1168, and with an election coming up, we may get a better Bill and results from the new legislators.
Now it’s time to get busy. The PPOA will work with Matt’s team to collect contact information on current legislators and legislators wanting our vote this next election. They will provide homeowners who wish to participate with form letters to send to their representatives creating a pressure campaign motivating legislators to hear the issues and move on them.
To learn more about the campaign and get involved, the PPOA will hold its annual meeting at the Pinewood Country Club on July 16 at 1 pm. Matt Ryan, District 3 Supervisor for Coconino County, will be in attendance and available to answer questions.
As the PPOA and Munds Park Hosts Group develop a plan of action, the Pinewood News will keep you informed as we move through this process.
The Munds Park Host Group
Genna and I have two STRs next to us. One STR is a member of the Munds Park Hosts, and the other is not. We can tell you from experience that the difference is night and day. We prefer no STRs next to us, but if we can’t have that, we want STRs that adhere to the standards set by the Munds Park Hosts, and so do you!
Here are their core standards:
They have learned that 3-night minimums significantly reduce the chance of booking guests looking for a quick trip up the mountain to party.
Install cameras at the garage and front door. Then take a few moments throughout your guest’s stay to check on guest count… if there’s a party occurring, then take action right away, even if that means you have to drive up and ask them to leave.
Two Trash Cans and Monitor Them
At a minimum, hosts should have two trash cans. In addition, have cameras in the area so you can check to ensure they are correctly closed and not overflowing. If they are, call your cleaner/house manager and pay them extra to go over and pick up the mess.
Protecting Northern Arizona’s Dark Skies
Put outdoor lighting on a timer to shut down at the end of the evening. Educate your guest, and explain what a Dark Sky community is and why it’s important to keep lights out. Add this information to your check-in instructions, so guests know how important this is to our community.
10 pm - 8 am.
Respect Munds Park
Remind guests that when they visit our forest and community, they are indeed GUESTS, and be mindful of speed, trash, blaring sound systems in Side by Sides, and keep the forest beautiful and stay on the trails.
Hosts are responsible for following fire restrictions and taking appropriate safeguards. That means removing wood/charcoal during Stage I and Stage II from their properties BEFORE their next guest arrives. Only propane is allowed during these stages. Further, Hosts are encouraged to clean their pine needs and other fuel from their yards twice per year.
Alert guests of the restrictions (including outdoor cigarette/cigar use) and put in place consequences for reservation cancellation if they are not followed.
Share Contact Information
Hosts are encouraged to exchange contact information with neighbors so a host can be reached right away if there is ever an issue that needs to be addressed timely.
Encourage every STR owner to join the Munds Park Host group—This includes our realtors! Tell your neighbors, your clients, and anyone with an STR they should join the group and work to improve the relationship between locals and STRs. Only Munds Park hosts can join. You can find the group on Facebook @MundsParkVRBO/AirbnbHosts.
The Pinewood News will follow up in the August 1 edition of the paper. We will report on the meeting with the PPOA and Matt Ryan, give details on motivating our legislators to take action, and provide resources for locals who need relief from bad hosts.
Until then, Munds Park, stay groovy and stay involved!