Let the planning commission plan

The Saratoga Planning Commission has its hands tied, for all intents and purposes and we at the Saratoga Sun believe it is a disservice to the planning commission itself and the residents of Saratoga.

While it is an advisory board, the role of the planning commission is to not only interpret existing zoning code but improve upon it as well. Such is the case regarding short term rentals in residential zones, which culminated in an 18 month process of drafting a proposed short term rental permit. At the recommendation of Kylie Waldrip, legal counsel for the Town of Saratoga, the permit was tabled in November 2023.

Mayor Chuck Davis—who serves as council liaison to the planning commission—made it clear even if the commission were to recommend approval, the governing body would go with Waldrip’s recommendation. The reasoning, at the time, was potential litigation in Jackson. Since then, the Sun has reported there is no litigation regarding short term rentals involving either the Town of Jackson or Teton County. Still, litigation in other states has been used as examples of why the Town of Saratoga shouldn’t pursue any regulations of short term rentals.

This is not an easy issue to confront, we understand. Short term rentals do have a part to play in our tourism-based economy. Owners pay lodging taxes, short term rentals listed on AirBNB and VRBO contribute to lodging taxes and the visitors contribute to the special use (5th penny) and specific purpose special use (6th penny) taxes which help bolster the Town of Saratoga’s budget. We’re not arguing or denying this fact.

They can contribute to a problem, one that we are already seeing in terms of a lack of affordable housing stock which would allow young families and workers to move to Saratoga. We are already seeing the impact of a diminished work force and we have been seeing it since the pandemic. Hotels are struggling to find employees as are restaurants and those restaurants that don’t have enough staff are having to close to allow what staff they do have to have time off. It even goes further than that, as both the South Central Wyoming Emergency Medical Services (SCWEMS) and the North Platte Valley Medical Center struggle to find housing for their volunteers and employees.

This is not sustainable.

At the March 19 meeting of the Saratoga Town Council, Councilmember Jerry Fluty claimed short term rentals were “not a bit different” from long term rentals. Respectfully, we disagree.

Short term rentals are intended for short-term stays by visitors to the area. Long term rentals—whether it be months or years—provide housing for a workforce which contributes to and sustains our local economy for the long term.

To be clear, we at the Saratoga Sun are not opposed to any short term rentals in town. We are not opposed to property owners—local owners, especially—from finding ways to make money with their property. We encourage diversity in our local economy as we believe a rising tide lifts all boats. A short term rental, as a business, should need to be held to the same standards as other businesses.

We have made this suggestion before but will make it again.

We encourage the Saratoga Town Council to form a committee. This committee would be best served if it were to include a planning commission member, a town council member, the owner or manager of a hotel, the owner of a short term rental and an at-large position held by a local resident.

We also encourage all residents—whether they are for or against short term rental permits—to follow the lead of Jimmy Campbell and Kim Hytrek and voice their concerns to the Saratoga Town Council.

Finally, we at the Saratoga Sun believe that the Saratoga Town Council should let the Saratoga Planning Commission do what it is tasked to do and plan for the future of our community.


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