Like many others, I watched last week’s planning board meeting with some interest. The crowd had to be one of the largest crowds to ever turn out for a local government meeting. The meeting was basically a public hearing on the plans by The John Strickland Cabal to ban vacation rentals (Airbnb, VRBO, etc.) within the village. The comment period lasted over six hours and was dominated by people against the ban.
The Planning Board put off a decision on the ban Thursday night. Surely the postponement had something to do with the horde of angry ban opponents staring down the board members. A special meeting of the board is scheduled for 4:30 on September 6 at Village Hall. Surely, some decision will be announced then.
It’s pretty clear, judging from the hearing, that the pro-ban folks are the same tight-knit, hate-filled, snobby Yankees who have been following John Strickland around for years. (It was pretty amusing to listen to them whine about “out-of-towners.” One of their heroes, “Parachute” Pat Pizzella was an out-of-towner until the first quarter of 2021.)
These folks have formed something called The Friday Group which aims to control all governing action within The Village of Pinehurst. These folks have chased off just about every attempt at commercial development. Despite Strickland’s alleged support for “affordable housing,” The Friday Group and The Strickland Cabal have fought all attempts at developing affordable housing tooth-and-nail.
SNL? Parts of the hearing seemed like an SNL sketch. There were a couple of female speakers who just plain did not make sense. Then there was the guy who said the word “$h!t”. three times during his commentary.
But there were some well-articulated arguments against the ban. One man testified about how he, his wife and his son have rented out properties for years. He said it was a fun family project, and they made money to finance their retirement.
Another lady chastised village leaders for running local government like an HOA. “If you want to nitpick what somebody does with their yard or their house, move to a neighborhood with an HOA or start one in your current neighborhood,” she said. “Some of you sound like you’d be right at home on an HOA board.”
Other speakers referenced the study touted by county leaders showing that a vacation rental ban would hit the county’s economy hard.
Some referenced the recent attempt at a vacation rental ban in Wilmington. The city lost its fight to enact a ban, and taxpayers there are now liable for over one million dollars plus additional court costs and damages. The Village of Pinehurst is also currently embroiled in what looks to be an expensive, lengthy legal fight. A rental ban is likely to evoke more court action against the village.
In 2014, village attorney Mike Newman criticized an attempted vacation rental ban as possibly unconstitutional and a tough case for the village to win, should the matter go to court. Nowadays, Newman is eerily quiet.
Lies, damnable lies. All the outnumbered pro-ban forces had to rely on was their usual exaggerations and outright lies. I’m not quite sure whether these people are driven by mental illness, dishonesty, or corruption (or some combination of the three). These pro-ban folks — the Strickland cabal – have no facts. They appear to be repeating gossip or just making crap up.
Some of the Strickland mob tried to suggest that the village is NOT a resort community, but a retirement community. Therefore, the vacation rentals are not needed. Anti-ban folks produced copies of ads used to market Pinehurst when it was founded in 1895 that described the village as a “resort.” (Seriously, would ANYONE move here if the Pinehurst Resort, its hotels and restaurants, and its nine golf courses were not here?)
Crime !!! The “crime” angle got dragged back out again. Never mind that the police department has said rental properties are no more of a nuisance than those occupied by full-time, long-term residents. A couple of Strickland fans stood up and proclaimed they could smell marijuana wafting out from the rental homes next door to them. One Strickland fan alleged that he and his wife witnessed some renters watching porn — with the volume turned WAY up — on the back porch of the rental house next door. First, how do you prove any of that? Second, why were there no calls placed to the police? Third, does less than a handful of alleged incidents justify shutting down the entire practice in town?
The Strickland team also kept beating the dead horse about rentals deteriorating the quality of life in Pinehurst. The survey commissioned by the village which showed a clear majority of residents were happy with their quality of life sure proved inconvenient to Team Strickland.
Some of the Strickland fans suggested that the rental properties should be seized, shut down or confiscated immediately. *You just have to loooooooove authoritarian busybodies.*
Some Strickland fans and ban supporters suggested the public hearing was illegitimate because so many realtors and property owners showed up. If the local government was trying to shut down your livelihood, wouldn’t you show up to make some noise before said local government? A lot of residents with no clear dog in the fight did show up to protest the proposed authoritarian move by village government.
The current majority got on the city council thanks to voter apathy in local elections. Not paying attention and allowing nut-cases into office usually leads to predicaments like the one we’re in.
If these people have the gall to try and shut down perfectly legal businesses, and regulate who can actually stay in specific dwellings — based on their own personal feelings — what will they go after next?
This is about personal freedom, people. We’ve stood by and watched Washington and Raleigh snatch a lot of it from us. Now we have a great opportunity to stand up to local bullies and say ‘Hell, no.’