Not only is Kari Frietas-Field’s commentary in the opinion section of the March 30 edition of New Times (“A plea for fairness”) a biased account of the circumstances surrounding her dispute with county Code Enforcement, it also presents a number of unanswered questions related to her business. Instead of detailing the inaccuracies contained in her statement, however, I would like to examine two of those questions and also offer the following facts about the vacation rental ordinance:
The Inland Vacation Rental Ordinance does not prohibit special events at vacation rentals; among other provisions, the ordinance provides a definition for what constitutes a private party.
Gatherings of people at vacation rentals over the limit defined in the ordinance require a minor use permit.
A minor use permit is a separate permit from a vacation rental license. Owners of vacation rentals can have both. Many do.
Frietas-Field’s perplexing lament begs the question as to why she is unwilling to make the necessary investments in her business in order to comply with fire, health, and safety building codes. Other venues in the area, such as tasting rooms, bed and breakfasts, and, yes, even vacation rentals, have made the necessary improvements to their businesses as required by county ordinances. Why she believes her business should be held to a lesser standard remains a mystery.
Another paradox involves Frietas-Field’s labeling of members of the Willow Creek Preservation Group as “elitist,” NIMBYs, and as having a “narrow-self interest” and blaming them for her business problems. In response, I would direct readers to the website willowcreekpreservationgroup.com. The Willow Creek Preservation Group (WCPG) was founded out of a mutual concern expressed among neighbors that a rural way of life was being eroded by traffic, noise and light pollution, and excessive water use. This grassroots organization is composed of concerned citizens with political views spanning a broad political spectrum. The following excerpt is from the website:
“We are not against wineries. We are not against growth. We are for balanced development that meets the needs of all stakeholders in our beautiful area, including individual property owners, farmers, ranchers, and winemakers. We are advocates for good stewardship of our lands, a stewardship that preserves a rural lifestyle for neighbors, habitat for wildlife, and business opportunities for agricultural interests. The current pattern of allowing a virtually unrestricted number of temporary events, vacation rentals, and bed and breakfasts has exacerbated several issues and has pitted neighbor against neighbor.”
Over the last 18 months, WCPG has worked with county staff in crafting an Inland Vacation Rental Ordinance and has collaborated with other community groups in advocating for the agricultural pond ordinance and the oak woodlands ordinance. Members also volunteer at public libraries, serve on advisory councils, and organize and participate in political action, just to name a few activities. How Frietas-Field can equate volunteerism with elitism, NIMBYism, or narrow self-interest is puzzling; perhaps she will provide a measure of clarity in a later response. I do know that labeling and blaming others for your own business shortcomings is counterproductive.
Larry Stone from the Willow Creek area of Paso Robles has his own opinions about the county’s Inland Vacation Rental Ordinance. You can share your thoughts, too, by emailing a letter for publication to firstname.lastname@example.org.