Spotted: Kids! (Can we have more, please?)

It was something we didn’t hear often - the sounds of young children. My son made a beeline for the front door and wanted to know where those sounds came from. Pouncing on the porch, my soon looked, and there he was. A little boy checking out our street. He was part of a family had rented one of the short-term rentals surrounding our house.  Without missing a beat, my 6-year old forgot I existed, forgot about family protocols and rushed over to ask the boy to play. My son didn’t care about asking my permission to go next door. He saw a little tyke, a rarity on our street. 

A girlfriend of mine was excited when she heard a basketball being dribbled across the street from her house. A family rented the house across the street and kids were actually playing. It was the first time she saw children in ages. 

Another girlfriend of mine, a local mom, rents her home. The price of that rental continues to go up. She works multiple jobs in town. 

As the debate around short-term rentals continue, I’m hoping we can all take a pause and think about how important COMMUNITY is. When I use the word ‘community’, it’s not just the occasional wave when I take my kids to summer camp. Community is one of being able to fall in line with the habits of your neighbors. Community is having a nearby backup plan for those times when you fall ill and you need your kids to walk down the block for dinner. This article sums up the need for community and what it means for our health. 

“Humans need others to survive,” says Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology at Brigham Young University. “Regardless of one’s sex, country or culture of origin, or age or economic background, social connection is crucial to human development, health, and survival."

We have a unique situation on the Southeast Shore where neighbors are either full time residents, second home owners or second home owners who use their second home as a potential revenue source. I do envy those neighborhoods whose second home owners are around for much of the summer, thus creating that sense of consistency and community, even when they aren’t there. 

I think back to my kids and mothers I talk to. Seeing kids out and playing in neighborhoods is rare these days. One may say that this is the state of America, gadgets and social media, but there’s more to it. If you have a residential neighborhood with less and less homes for a family to live in long term, you lose community. You lose more human interaction and you lose the impromptu game of tag. Again, some of this DOES exist in the area, but I call it the Street Lottery. Meaning, being lucky enough to move into a home, on a street where there may be one or two families, if at all. 

We understand that this area has been a vacation town forever - we get it. We are reminded of this by Realtors and vacation companies and business owners. 

And we don’t think short term rentals should go away. 

What we don’t understand is how there can be so many claims and decisions being made without clear, black and white situational analysis and planning. If the number of short-term rentals R-1 zoned areas decreased or went away, what is the worst that could happen financially to the area? 

We would love to see the day where the City, Township and New Buffalo Area Schools got together and held a public forum for residents to ask questions and receive clear information.  If the area would like to ONLY be a beach destination long term, then this needs to be communicated to everyone, enabling current and future residents to plan accordingly. Should the area like to diversify economically (which we love), then let's embrace multiple ideas from various backgrounds to make it happen. 

Yours truly comes from the tech sector. I was there when Airbnb started. Airbnb started out as a way for a person to rent out a ROOM in their home. If we want to think about the actual origins of an idea and what it was meant to do, feel free to read the original pitch deck Airbnb put together. Airbnb stood for “AirBed & Breakfast - Book rooms with locals, rather than hotels.” Rooms. 

In the meantime, I’m hoping my son gets his chance to play with the short-term visitor next door.

Let's bring back community, casseroles and coffee talk.