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Monday’s Letter to the editor

March 27, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.

SB 197 'bad legislation'

Dear editor:

Senate Bill 197 is currently being heard in the Arkansas Legislature. It passed through the Senate with both Hot Springs area Sens. McKee and Clark voting for it. SB 197 will remove all city regulations on short-term rentals. Reach out to your state senator and representative and ask them to vote no on SB 197. It is bad legislation as written.

This legislation will benefit few at the cost of many. The beneficiaries will be the STR industry. The losers will be every other residential property owner and hotelier in the state, especially those of us who live and work in larger communities and resort destinations.

Retirement in my childhood hometown in a beautiful, peaceful neighborhood in a wonderful community is what we had hoped for. My neighborhood is holding on to its beauty. It is no longer peaceful. We do not know who is coming or going. We do not know who is renting the property from one night to the next. Not one STR on my street is owned by a resident of Hot Springs. Four of the owners live out of state. LLCs and corporations have outbid local residents for homes. My neighborhood is disappearing. I do not think most people put their primary residence in the name of an LLC or corporation. Do you? The bill sponsors suggest HOAs are the answer. We've been told it is virtually impossible to revitalize our inactive HOA due to the number of established STRs in the neighborhood. If STRs are so great, why do HOAs try to prohibit them?

I want to be very clear. We do not want to eliminate STRs or ban them. Actually, they can be helpful in revitalizing some areas. However, it is critical for city government to retain the right to regulate them in a way that keeps the safety of everyone as the main priority. The preservation of the beauty and character of our neighborhoods and city should also be a major consideration. Police have responded more than once to STR guest problems on our street and arrests were made. It's difficult to cite or arrest someone when they are in and out, especially without owner cooperation. Going forward, I can't imagine a way in which effective policing will be possible due to the transient nature of STR guests and absentee owners.

Hot Springs city officials have worked hard to develop an ordinance that is fair for most. Safety and security of STR occupants and city residents are the priority of the ordinance. It is a work in progress and has already undergone changes. City government is more nimble than state government and can quickly make changes to an ordinance to correct problems. If SB 197 passes, two years will go by before the legislature can even begin to clean up the collateral damage and unintended consequences. Some damage may very well be irreparable. This is a complex issue. A "one size fits all" bill will not work. Please help us preserve our neighborhoods. Help us keep STR occupants, and families safe. Please don't remove power from the people. Please help stop this legislation. Call your state senator and House representative today and ask them to vote no on SB 197!

Elizabeth Elrod

Hot Springs

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