Saving Incline Village from becoming a tourist resort (Opinion)
Incline Village is losing its residential quality. The problem is the ongoing conversion of single-family residences from homes to short-term rentals. To the outside observer, this transformation may seem a benign and inevitable change as Lake Tahoe gains world stature as a tourist destination. But for Incline Village permanent residents it feels like death from a thousand cuts.
Incline Village deserves to be more than a part-time summer-winter tourist mecca. It’s a small town of 4,000 or so year-round residents and half again that many snowbirds. It boasts a small-town atmosphere where most residents know their neighbors; most actively participate in local clubs and charities; and most are avid stewards of the lake. The village is a good place in which to raise children, reside and retire.
But Incline Village’s “livability index” is under a two-pronged assault from out-of-state tourists who see the village as party central and Washoe County officials who see it as a cash cow. Over the past 10 years, more than 1,000 short-term-rentals have started transforming Incline from an alpine village to a tourist resort.
A Washoe County Commissioner recently expressed her opinion thus: “You moved to a tourist destination, what did you expect?” What some of us expect is to preserve all the good things that made us willing to pay some of the highest home prices in the United States for the privilege of living here.
And for those of us who’ve lived here decades, we don’t plan to idly watch the village we love lose its character. We want to know our neighbors. We want to live in a close community. We want to preserve our quality of life.
Increasingly in the past several years, investors who don’t want to live or work in Incline Village buy properties here to use as short-term rentals. Many of these buyers are professional real-estate investors, but others are private individuals whose primary residence is elsewhere. Local real estate agents encourage these purchases by offering to rent out the property short-term and provide short-term-rental property-management services.
These non-resident investors are actively destroying Incline’s residential character. It’s not just that neighbors increasingly suffer all the well-known nuisances and irritations of renters who think that — given the price they paid — they can do whatever they like in a private home. The bigger problem is that investors’ monetary gain is at the expense of neighbors’ monetary pain. According to one local realtor, it only takes one short-term-rental to drive down neighborhood home values, or to reduce home-mortgage loan limits, or to raise neighbors’ home insurance rates.
Unfortunately, short-term rentals have many unintended consequences beyond the well-documented damages to neighbors, to neighborhoods, and to Incline’s livability index. With the recent pandemic, Incline businesses relying on tourism were hardest hit. A tourist is a fair-weather friend. Only permanent residents stick it out through Tahoe’s highs and lows. Businesses depending on tourism don’t survive bad weather, recessions, or pandemics. Incline needs a sustainable economy catering to residents who live here year round.
In 2019 Incline residents formed a group to lobby Washoe County when the commissioners began creating their short term rental ordinance. Although the ordinance is supposedly countywide, 90% of all Washoe County short-term rentals are in Incline Village. Over the past year, residents let commissioners know we want short-term rentals located in the central commercial district of Incline, not in the residential subdivisions. We want permits given only to owners who actually live in their homes and claim Incline Village as their permanent (voting) residence.
We want a limit on the number of short-term residences within a given distance of each other. All these mandates exist in the city of Las Vegas short term rental ordinance created in 2017. None infringe on Nevada’s carefully guarded “property rights.”
Unfortunately, the Washoe County STR ordinance to be presented at the commissioners zoom meeting at 10 a.m. on Aug. 25, includes none of the mandates permanent residents want. It includes only what commissioners want, what realtors want, and what STR owners want.
The ordinance has been carefully crafted to allow Washoe County to collect from Incline Village as much STR transient-occupancy-tax as possible.
For more than a year we lobbied for protections for permanent residents and benefits to the community, but so far Washoe County has failed to understand it is — with a thousand cuts — killing off its golden goose.
Incline Village STR Citizen Advisory Group can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ronda Tycer is an Incline Village resident
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