Thursday, October 20, 2011

Alta Sierra mediation ends in stalemate

Vacation rental owners paid for an arbitration session with residents, but many residents walked out on the arbitration process because they felt that a complete ban on the rentals in residential zones was not being considered.

Published on Wednesday, October 19, 2011 12:08 AM PDT
Matt Martz/Special to the Sun

Lake Isabella, CA

After several hours of intense debate, negotiations between property owners and the surrounding neighborhood residents reached a stalemate regarding the ongoing issue concerning short-term vacation rentals in Alta Sierra.

Nearly 60 attendees, including four to six rental owners who paid for the arbitration, packed the Greenhorn Grill in Alta Sierra for more than three hours on Sept. 24, to take part in a Vacation Rental Workshop mediated by facilitator Jack Hardisty of South Valley Solutions.

The room was lined with large poster-sized sheets that listed all of the problems, issues, and comments that have been expressed over the past several months, from residents who are outraged at Kern County Planning Director Lorelei Oviatt’s interpretation of the area’s R‐1 zoning ordinance that allows short‐term renting in their community.

It didn’t take long for attendees to begin expressing their grievances verbally, as participation from both rental property owners and non-rental property owners ignited a rather lively discussion.

The first two hours of the meeting dealt with identifying conflicts perceived to be a direct result from the short‐term renting of Alta Sierra properties, while the final hour focused on finding solutions.

Near the end of the workshop it was clear that an agreement would not be reached, and according to a report prepared by Hardisty, “Regrettably, no agreements between the two sides were reached to help the Board of Supervisors in their consideration of this situation.”

Hardisty’s report also noted that many of the participants left the meeting before the final hour, citing that to offer solutions to conflicts would give the impression that they have conceded that short-term renting is a permitted use in an R-1 zone. As a result, many residents declined to participate in a solutions discussion, leaving primarily owners who rent out their properties, to come up with workable solutions.

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