Living in paradise brings its own unique challenges and rewards. There is no doubt that Orcas has become quite the destination place. The ferries, restaurants, and stores are full. While it may be great for the economy, the community is grappling with the impact of so many visitors.
This week, there was a community meeting on the impact of vacation rentals on the island that drew a standing room only crowd to the School Cafeteria. The meeting was called by a group of concerned neighbors who have gathered data on the rising number of permitted short term rentals. It is a complex issue, as some folks rely on rental income to subsidize their mortgage payments, many local businesses rely on tourism to stay afloat, while finding long term rentals has become nearly impossible. The group will be posting information on their website shortly (I will send the address when it is up) and is planning a follow up meeting in September.
OICF hosted a presentation with Rick Hughes on the Lodging Tax grant process. The tax is collected from hotels, inns, and vacation rentals and is intended to help promote tourism. (Here is the link to the state regulations on lodging tax distributions).
San Juan County has approximately $1.5 M to distribute annually through the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee (LTAC). Annual funding is dedicated for the Chambers of Commerce, the Performing Art Centers and the Museums on Lopez, Orcas and San Juan. In addition, activities such as the film, literary, and food festivals are supported with grants to enhance their promotional efforts. A complete list of recent SJ Co LTAC grants can be read on the last two pages of their RFP. LTAC also funded a survey of tourism which can be read here. Given the current busy vibe on the island, it appears their efforts have been mighty successful.
I am grateful that we as a community care deeply and want to ensure a bright future. Hopefully we can keep the dialog positive and productive.
Hope to see you at Olga Daze (July 20)!