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Scottsdale City Council candidates talk short-term rentals on heels of new rules

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Scottsdale City Council candidates discuss best approaches to unruly STR operators
By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press

Local voters in ‘The West’s Most Western Town’ will decide from a field of nine candidates who will fill three seats at Scottsdale City Council during the Tuesday, July 30, primary election.

The city of Scottsdale is hosting a primary election to elect a mayor and three members of Scottsdale City Council whereas for a candidate to win outright in the July primary election they would have to receive the majority of ballots cast, election officials tell the Digital Free Press.

For races still in contention, a November general election will be held to decide those races, election officials say.

Candidates for Scottsdale City Council are:

With new short-term rental regulations approved, the Digital Free Press reached out to each Scottsdale City Council candidate to better understand how these candidates view the local STR marketplace and what the municipality can do better to manage unruly operators in the space.

Furthermore, what do these candidates believe is the strongest impediment to effective local control of Scottsdale vacation rentals.

This is what they had to say:

Scottsdale City Council Candidate: Bob Lettieri

If you are elected to Scottsdale City Council, how will you continue to protect neighborhoods from unruly short-term rentals?

By strengthening and enforcing existing ordinances aimed at mitigating the negative impacts of short-term rentals. This includes robust noise ordinances to address disturbances caused by loud parties and gatherings, as well as implementing strict penalties for violators to deter future infractions. Allow the city of Scottsdale to regulate short-term rentals, such as implementing occupancy limits and requiring hosts to obtain special permits or licenses.

*Scottsdale City Council just last week approved new regulations to help corral unruly STR operators within municipal limits. Do you think the Scottsdale City Council made a good decision?

Yes, I do believe Scottsdale’s City Council made a good decision. The council responded to citizens’ concerns addressed at making short term renters accountable for there unruly behavior.

*What do you see as the largest threat to the city of Scottsdale regarding the municipality’s ability to regulate STR operations within city limits?

Legal and Regulatory Framework: State or federal laws related to short-term rentals could limit the municipality’s ability to regulate them effectively. Legal battles with rental platforms or property owners might also arise.

Enforcement: Ensuring compliance with regulations, such as occupancy limits, noise ordinances, and tax collection, can be difficult without adequate resources for enforcement.

*If elected, how will you work collaboratively with the industry to find solutions to existing and new concerns that may arise?

I would advocate for increased transparency and accountability in the short-term rental industry. By working closely with platforms like Airbnb and VRBO, we can ensure that those hosts who are violating the rules are held accountable for the behavior of their guests and that any complaints from residents are swiftly addressed.

*Scottsdale City Council Candidate: Tammy Caputi

*If you are elected to Scottsdale City Council, how will you continue to protect neighborhoods from unruly short-term rentals?

Under my term on council, we set up a task force to research, recommend, and implement changes to help defend our neighborhoods from bad short-term rental (STR) operators. As soon as the state permitted more regulations, we were the first city to move forward with licensing, levying fines, and requiring a dedicated point of contact to respond within an hour of complaints. Scottsdale is now doing more than any other city in this area. We now have a dedicated STR police unit and code enforcement officers whose efforts have resulted in a large increase of citations.

Between January and April 2024, 276 citations related to short-term rentals have been written, more than four times the 58 written in all of 2023. We have also seen a 10% drop in STRs in the city over the past year. There is much more to do. I will continue to work hard to strengthen local ordinances and do everything possible to protect our neighborhoods.

*Scottsdale City Council just last week approved new regulations to help corral unruly STR operators within municipal limits. Do you think the Scottsdale City Council made a good decision?

Yes, 100%, and I wish we could have done more. The May 6 changes hold promoters responsible for nuisance parties, ban minors from renting STRs, and give police the authority to remove non-residents from a property after a nuisance party has been declared. If you are a bad STR operator, don’t come to Scottsdale.

*What do you see as the largest threat to the city of Scottsdale regarding the municipality’s ability to regulate STR operations within city limits?

Unfortunately, state law prevents the city of Scottsdale from banning short-term rentals. I will continue to advocate for legislative changes that give control back to Scottsdale. Contact your state legislators to respectfully voice your concerns. The city does have a robust resource page that includes a map of all STRs, and an easy form for filing complaints HERE.

*If elected, how will you work collaboratively with the industry to find solutions to existing and new concerns that may arise?

Currently, SB1205 and HB2489 are the city-sponsored legislative measures on short-term rentals. They would permit a city or town to limit the number of vacation or short-term rentals within the city by passing an ordinance that sets a maximum number of those types of units in city or town boundaries, requires specific distances between vacation rentals and short-term rentals, and sets a maximum number of licenses for either type of unit for a city or town.

It would exempt current license or permit holders in good standing with a city or town from any ordinance limiting permits, units, or distance between units, excepting if the city or town determine that applying the ordinance is a matter of public health and safety, or if the license is revoked or suspended by the city or town. I will continue to push for these and other commonsense bills at the legislature.

Scottsdale City Council Candidate: Thomas Durham

*If you are elected to Scottsdale City Council, how will you continue to protect neighborhoods from unruly short-term rentals?

This is one of the city’s most important issues.

Many residents are losing the quiet enjoyment of their homes due to out-of-control partiers and some have even been forced to move. This is completely unacceptable. As most people know, this problem arises from the Arizona Legislature’’s refusal to allow Scottsdale to apply its own regulations.

During my time on the council, I have worked to push legislation at the stare and city level to curtail this problem. I worked with our lobbyists, city staff, and Paradise Valley officials to pursue remedies at the state level. This effort was successful as we gained some limited ability to identify and regulate short-term rentals. We have added police officers to enforce short-term rental rules and this has resulted in more efficient reporting and responding to short-term rental problems. If re-elected, I will continue to pursue this problem on every front available.

*Scottsdale City Council just last week approved new regulations to help corral unruly STR operators within municipal limits. Do you think the Scottsdale City Council made a good decision?

Absolutely! This applies to both STRs and ordinary citizens. We need every tool possible to curtail this problem.

*What do you see as the largest threat to the city of Scottsdale regarding the municipality’s ability to regulate STR operations within city limits?

The largest threat is the state legislature and their refusal to let us decide what is best for Scottsdale. We must continue to alert the legislature to the problems their policy has caused.

*If elected, how will you work collaboratively with the industry to find solutions to existing and new concerns that may arise?

Some industry participants realize that the industry must clean up its act before more onerous regulations are put in place. Unfortunately, I am not sure the problematic participants are willing to do so. I have met with some of the industry participants to look for reasonable solutions and will continue to do so.

Scottsdale City Council Candidate: Steve Casares

*If you are elected to Scottsdale City Council, how will you continue to protect neighborhoods from unruly short-term rentals?

Research, explore, and collaboratively impose more aggressive fines for nuisance complaints. At the very least, review and emplace revised ordnances with regard to decibel levels. It’s worthy of consideration to lower the current standard to perhaps 60 or even 55 decibels, and concurrently raise the fine rate for first-time and repeat offenders.

*Scottsdale City Council just last week approved new regulations to help corral unruly STR operators within municipal limits. Do you think the Scottsdale City Council made a good decision?

Yes. It was the best decision that could have been made given the approximately 4,000 STRs, the $11M in revenue to the city, measured against state law.

*What do you see as the largest threat to the city of Scottsdale regarding the municipality’s ability to regulate STR operations within city limits?

I personally would not define this as a threat, but a municipal constraint. The Scottsdale Police Department, with approximately 400 sworn officers, is doing an amazing job in keeping us safe. But note, law enforcement is unable to be everywhere all the time. More simply put, I view the constraint as responding to all the nuisance complaints in a timely manner, given the other duties our police department has.

*If elected, how will you work collaboratively with the industry to find solutions to existing and new concerns that may arise?

STRs, I candidly admit, is an issue that I learned about while petitioning to be your representative on City Council. I’ll continue to educate myself. It’s also a complex issue, I believe, given the intersectionality of the science of noise, SB1350, property rights, zoning, ordnance, and preserving the charm and public health of law-abiding homeowners in the affected areas.

Scottsdale City Council Candidate: MaryAnn McCallen

*If you are elected to Scottsdale City Council, how will you continue to protect neighborhoods from unruly short-term rentals?

Talking with residents, I have heard a host of concerns about some of the STRs that negatively affect our neighborhoods. STRs are throughout our city, but highly concentrated in the downtown area neighborhoods. It makes families sad that their once livable, playable street is not kid friendly any longer. As a council member I will listen to our residents and continue to advocate for our neighborhoods, helping their voices to be heard. I will support our city staff to the full extent that they may work to hold STR operators accountable.

We must continue to push for autonomous regulatory statutes at a municipal level. The city must have the ability to help its residents without state statutes that tie our hands.

*Scottsdale City Council just last week approved new regulations to help corral unruly STR operators within municipal limits. Do you think Scottsdale City Council made a good decision?

I do believe the city council moved in the right direction voting unanimously to support neighborhoods. The city council must continue to help city staff support neighborhoods and be responsive to our residents as situations arise.

At this current time, our state legislature is considering passing legislation that will allow accessory dwelling units (ADUs) and that will tremendously complicate the already tumultuous STR situation. Our city and our leaders have been very focal to let our legislature know we need to be able to control our city and keep our standards high.

*What do you see as the largest threat to the city of Scottsdale regarding the municipality’s ability to regulate STR operations within city limits?

Our state leaders need to help us, not tie our hands by creating legislation that takes away our governing power at a municipal level. Scottsdale’s neighborhoods are exactly that: Scottsdale’s.
The leaders of Scottsdale over the decades have created an oasis in the desert and we want to preserve our city.

*If elected, how will you work collaboratively with the industry to find solutions to existing and new concerns that may arise.

I will work collaboratively with city staff, the Scottsdale Area Realtors, the tourism industry and local businesses to inform those traveling to Scottsdale for pleasure or business, that we take the safety of our residents and neighborhoods seriously and we will not tolerate the depreciation of our city. This would encompass working with neighborhood groups, our police precincts and local businesses to keep an on-going open communication of trends and occurrences throughout our city. As city leaders we must also keep the lines of communication open to our state legislators that represent Scottsdale to hold them to the high standards that our residents deserve.

Scottsdale City Council Candidate: Justin Laos

If you are elected to Scottsdale City Council, how will you continue to protect neighborhoods from unruly short-term rentals?

The city council must continue to protect our family neighborhoods from unruly STRs. I would continue to invest into our STR task force and ensure they have the resources to operate. Our police and the STR task force specifically have done a wonderful job addressing this issue.

*Scottsdale City Council just last week approved new regulations to help corral unruly STR operators within municipal limits. Do you think the Scottsdale City Council made a good decision?

I do think this was a good decision, these kinds of regulations benefit citizens, neighborhoods, and even the STR industry by targeting and holding bad actors accountable while also giving police the abilities they need.

*What do you see as the largest threat to the city of Scottsdale regarding the municipality’s ability to regulate STR operations within city limits?

Scottsdale is in a difficult position vs. other cities due to our lively nightlife and tourism. This means we have been more affected by bad acting STRs, which damages the reputation of well acting STRs and disseminates our family centric neighborhoods. This is an excellent example of why local control is so important, on the issue of STR, the state needs to allow local municipalities to protect their neighborhoods and properly regulate such an impactful industry in the city.

*If elected, how will you work collaboratively with the industry to find solutions to existing and new concerns that may arise?

I believe throughout Scottsdale, the vast majority of STR owners agree with the issues we are dealing with and want to work with the city to protect Scottsdale and their industry. I’d work closely with them and also use my position to lobby the state to allow more local control.

Scottsdale City Council Candidate: Mason Gates

*If you are elected to Scottsdale City Council, how will you continue to protect neighborhoods from unruly short-term rentals?

I will encourage our city lobbyist to sharply advocate against state efforts to pre-empt Scottsdale from regulating short-term rentals. I will also personally testify at legislative committee hearings at the state Capitol to advocate against any proposed bills that make it more difficult for Scottsdale to craft stricter short-term rental ordinances than the state would otherwise allow.

I will also empower law enforcement with all the tools they need to enforce existing city ordinances regulating unruly short-term rentals. We need to make sure our police officers are properly equipped to prevent short-term renters from disrupting our wonderful neighborhoods and diminishing our quality of life. If short-term renters want to be loud and rowdy, they can find another city in which to party, not Scottsdale.

*Scottsdale City Council just last week approved new regulations to help corral unruly STR operators within municipal limits. Do you think the Scottsdale City Council made a good decision?

The Scottsdale City Council made a sound decision, keeping with the interests of Scottsdale residents, and I would have proudly voted for these regulations. Common sense dictates that promoters should be held responsible for unlawful gatherings in short-term rental properties; that minors should not be allowed to rent short-term rentals; and that non-Scottsdale residents should be removed from a short-term rental property if they have been deemed to be causing a nuisance with an unruly party.

*What do you see as the largest threat to the city of Scottsdale regarding the municipality’s ability to regulate STR operations within city limits?

The most significant threat to the city of Scottsdale’s ability to regulate short-term rentals is HB 2720, a disastrous bill making its way through the legislative process at the capitol. Sponsored by Michael Carbone (LD-25), a lawmaker from Buckeye, the bill would force cities with more than 75,000 residents to allow the construction of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) on single-family properties.

If this bill passes into law and is added to current Arizona statute, then Scottsdale single-family property owners will be allowed to put their ADUs on the short-term rental market. This would wreak havoc on Scottsdale residents in search of peace and quiet, as property owners will have free rein to build ADUs and rent them out to short-term renters. Dozens of cities throughout Arizona opposed this bill, and I am hoping the governor promptly vetoes it.

*If elected, how will you work collaboratively with the industry to find solutions to existing and new concerns that may arise?

I will work to ensure Airbnb and VRBO are duly abiding by all existing regulations regarding short-term rentals. If their guests violate Scottsdale’s short-term rental ordinances, these companies will be held accountable. I will also work to demand that Airbnb and VRBO enforce their own stated rules for guests, so that the burden of preventing unruly behavior will be shared between Scottsdale law enforcement and short-term rental companies.

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