By Ricky Cortez
Tourism and vacation rentals are the backbone of the Poconos. Indeed, a Tobyhanna Supervisor commented during a recent meeting, “The Poconos were built on 60 years of vacation rentals.”
Owners who open their homes to guests have driven growth and prosperity in the Poconos. Tourism contributes upwards of $3.8 million in total annual spending, supports a quarter of the local workforce, and comprises 62% of state and local revenue.
Over the past two years, Tobyhanna and Coolbaugh Townships have diligently worked at crafting regulations for vacation rentals. While Coolbaugh Township’s ordinance went into effect in August 2020, Tobyhanna has yet to amend its zoning code or pass any regulations.
Zoning and regulatory measures enacted by Coolbaugh will mitigate problem rentals by holding owners accountable for regulatory and safety infractions and nuisance complaints. Before this ordinance was enacted, there was little that the township or residents could do to stop problem rentals.
The vast majority of those who rent their vacation homes do so in a way that enhances the local economy while respecting neighbors’ privacy and rights. Unfortunately, a small minority of mismanaged homes are responsible for negative perceptions of vacation rentals. Sensible regulations will largely eliminate these problems and improve quality of life all for all.
For the past two years, responsible owners have participated in a process to create sensible regulations to preserve the integrity and safety of the community without disrupting the growth and benefits that tourism brings to our community. The vast majority of owners are eager to work with the townships to develop and implement policies that are firm and fair.
Smart, equitable measures will benefit the community at large while maintaining small-town charm.
Many current Poconos homeowners were introduced to the Poconos through seasonal rentals. Vacation rentals are an important introduction to ownership and for many represent a path to a prosperous, relaxing retirement. My family falls into this category. We fell in love with the myriad of year-round activities and began dreaming of the future we wanted to have in this special place. When the opportunity arose for us to buy our piece of Poconos paradise, we found a charming lodge that had been a vacation rental for over a decade.
Vacation rental owners like myself have already taken the lead in anticipating and preventing perceived problems. For example, many of us have installed noise meters, exterior webcams and remote locks. These measures take much of the burden off local authorities and prevent activities that could lead to complaints.
Owners must be part of the solution, and a large number of us in Lake Naomi and Arrowhead communities have joined forces to support the creation and enforcement of township ordinances. We believe that the zoning amendment and rental ordinance currently under consideration by the township are a critical step that all of us in the community should be able to support. These new measures will create transparency, maintain accountability and open channels of communication to resolve any issues that arise.
Most owners of Poconos vacation rental homes are committed to bringing responsible owners and guests into alignment with the ethos of our community. Properly managed vacation rental homes are the lifeblood of the Poconos. By working together, we can create a prosperous and harmonious future that will serve us and our visitors for generations to come!
Ricky Cortez is a Pocono Pines homeowner. He has attended meetings and participated for the past two years in the Tobyhanna Township Short Term Rental Ordinance and Coolbaugh Township Short Term Rental Ordinance discussions.