At some point in the recent past Asheville, North Carolina, banned overnight rentals in the city, in both residential zones and commercial zones.
The city council took action when they went from 7,000 to 10,000 overnight rooms. They have a population of about 90,000. We have a population of about 9,000 and we already have over 4,000 overnight rooms. Proportionally, that would be 40,000 rooms in Asheville. and we have at least six more hotels on the way, plus more and more overnight townhouses and bed and breakfasts (B&Bs), legal and illegal. I know the tourist industry has revitalized this area since the late 1980s, however, now they have overrun the town.
I would really appreciate it if we could find out how Asheville got motivated to do their best to maintain the integrity of their community despite being a popular tourist destination. How did they manage to motivate to take action before they got to where we are already at now? The overnight rentals in Moab and Grand County have taken over, and it is worse here because of the amount of motors that most of the tourists bring here with them. It increases the vibration in the valley.
The volume of tourists is a main topic of conversation much of the time these days. These discussions include affordable housing, paying for more infrastructure and that the noise from the Razrs and other UTVs, and ATVs that zoom through town, including our residential streets, has really made living here less enjoyable.
Moab is headed for the “ski town effect” of the West, similar to Park City, where all of the locals used to live in the quaint and colorful mining houses of downtown Old Town — there was a community. Now these houses are mostly overnight rentals, and the sense of community has been lost. It feels like a ghost town in off-season (mud season) with the buildings vacant. Locals and employees have to commute in from far away, which increases traffic. When the children of the people who live here now grow up, they can no longer afford to live here.
Also, it’s amazing that there seems to be little discussion or no discussion about the fact that we are in a severe drought, and that the building of more and more overnight rentals continues. Each overnight rental (hotels, townhouses, B&Bs etc.) uses a lot of water, and there are lots of them.
The conversations include the fact that it is getting more and more difficult to enjoy our own town. The residential areas used to be off the beaten path. The tourists didn’t really know about them. There were some hikes and places to go that weren’t overrun with visitors. First Grandstaff Canyon was sacrificed, and then Powerhouse Lane. Now, with B&Bs all over the valley, their guests are in our neighborhoods. There doesn’t seem to be anywhere we can get away from “them.”
I am not anti-tourist. After all, it is the main thing running our economy. However, we need to get a grip. If everyone rents out their houses (or rooms in their houses) then there is no place for the residents who can’t afford to buy a house to live. Plus now every area in town has people coming and going every day. That’s when the sense of community is lost. You don’t know your neighbors because you don’t have neighbors: you have people who change frequently.
I moved here from New York City, and I mean Manhattan. I didn’t even look at the people I passed on the street because I knew I wouldn’t know them. Any of them. I love the fact that I see people I know when I go downtown or hiking or walk or bike or drive somewhere in Moab. I don’t mind meeting new people, but I like the comfort and safety of knowing the people in my community.
I would appreciate it if we could find out how Asheville (and others) got the gumption to take back their town. Is there a chance that someone with some authority could contact the Asheville’s city council and find that out? I, for one, would like to retain some of the community feel that I have had in this town for the past 27 years. I know that things change, but I fear that once we have lost much more of our town to overnight rentals, it will be hard to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
Please, let’s try to think of the good of the community, rather than the good of each individual. Our common welfare should come first. The good of the individuals depends on the strength of our community. Not just the businesses, but the quality of life for all of the individuals who have chosen to call Moab home.