Thursday, September 10, 2015

My "Mayberry" ...

NOTE: Tuesday night I made a little speech to my mayor and city commission. I ran a little over the three minutes they allow for "public speaking," but, I think I got my point across. Here's what I said. You decide.

I moved into my home on April 12, 1987. My daughter was born five days later and she grew up in a neighborhood where we knew everyone on our street. She walked to elementary and high school and spent many hours at Hagen Park and Mickel Field.

I awoke in the wee hours this morning thinking about The Andy Griffith Show’s episode 10 from season one, “Stranger in Town.”  It was on cable TV last night. The citizens of Mayberry were suspicious of a young stranger who seemed to know everything about them. It turned out that his army buddy was from Mayberry and he had loved hearing his friend talk about home. After discharge, he began subscribing to the local newspaper and he had decided to come to Mayberry and make it his home. Thanks to the sensitivity and wisdom of the local sheriff, the folks of Mayberry came to see this man deserved to be welcomed because he loved their small town as much as they did.

So, there I am at three in the morning thinking about this, and I had a little epiphany.  I’m watching my “Mayberry” morph into something I don’t recognize and I can’t do anything about it.

My daughter is 28 years old now and, sadly, I don’t know everyone on my street any more. Of the ten houses that line my block, four of them are vacation rental businesses. Today, three are lined up in a row, across the street from where I live.

There are those who say these houses were blighted and their rehabbing has increased our property values. I don’t know if that’s true. I agree that they look pretty. But, the thing is, they’re not part of community life. There’s no one to know. They’re not residents. And, that makes me suspicious.

When this whole conversion thing started a few years ago, it took me a while, but, I came to accept the business across the street. After all, I didn’t have much choice.  Then, I discovered there were two other vacation rental businesses on our street, but, they were scattered in between my real neighbors, so, I worked at making peace with their presence, too. I knew the State Legislature had stripped municipalities of the ability to regulate vacation rentals in any meaningful way, so, I knew I had to be patient and give the cities time to find a way to rein them in.

Then, last month, an owner occupied house between two vacation rentals was sold and I’ve learned it is being converted to a vacation rental, making three vacation rental businesses in a row, across the street from where I live. So, I have come here to ask. Can you do anything about that? Is it okay for 40% or 50% of a residential neighborhood to be Stepford Wife vacation rental businesses?  Don’t we, homesteaded residents, have a say in this? And, if not, why not?

U.S. property laws guarantee me the “right of quiet enjoyment” of MY property. That’s pretty much gone from my life and, I admit, I’m mad about it. Please? Can you guys help save my “Mayberry?”

Thank you.