Hundreds respond to vacation rental survey as county forms new committee to shape policy
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Hundreds respond to vacation rental survey as county forms new committee to shape policy

A committee of more than 20 community members, elected officials and county staff will review how and where vacation rentals fit into the future of Cook County.

The committee consists of 18 people from the community, including representatives from Grand Portage, the Cook County Board of Commissioners, the county administrator, county assessor, people who own and operate vacation rentals locally, and other community members. Ten alternates will also be involved in a limited capacity on the committee.

The Cook County Vacation Rental Program Review Committee, as the group will be called, was officially appointed during a meeting of the Cook County Board of Commissioners Tuesday, June 28.

The formation of the committee comes following weeks of discussion at the county level and a comprehensive report on vacation rentals that was shared by Land Services Director Tim Nelson during a May 24 meeting of the county board.

Cook County Administrator James Joerke says he was involved in the preliminary discussions about short term rentals in recent weeks. He says transparency and a balanced committee are crucial for the committee as it moves forward.

“I believe the committee did a great job of trying to achieve that balance,” Joerke said of the process to form a diverse group to serve on the committee.

There was a reshuffling of appointees to the committee during this week’s meeting of the commissioners. During the public comment period of the June 28 meeting, Steve Surbaugh, a local realtor and co-owner of Cascade Vacation Rentals, a local short-term rental company, requested to be added to the committee. Surbaugh said his expertise in the industry made him a viable candidate to serve on the committee.

Nelson says he spoke with local realtor and former CVR owner Mike Larson about placing Surbaugh on the seat the county offered to Larson ahead of this week’s meeting. After various rounds of discussion on the topic, Surbaugh was eventually appointed to serve on the committee, replacing Larson.

In 2015, Cook County officials organized a similarly structured ‘vacation rental committee’ to review the variety of concerns of that time and forward any recommendations to the board, Nelson explained during the board meeting May 24. The findings and opinions of that committee built the framework for the current Cook County vacation rental ordinance and licensing program.

Concerns expressed by some community members about vacation rentals in Cook County range from their role in a limited housing stock available locally to rising real estate values.

Meanwhile, some in the vacation rental industry feel the number of short-term rentals in Cook County is not a problem, and whatever role these types of rentals play in the community is a benefit to the local economy.

According to the Cook County Land Services Department, there were 239 short-term rentals in Cook County at the end of 2021. This represents a downward trend in the number of vacation rental properties in the county, based on data from officials in the land services department.

Nelson also spoke about a survey the county offered in early June specific to vacation rentals. Nelson said Cook County is entering into a period of full review of its vacation rental licensing program, and “would like to receive some feedback and comments relating the varying community perspectives with regards to vacation rental operations within the county.”

As of June 27 – the day the survey period closed – approximately 580 people completed the survey, Nelson said.

In response to the significant number of surveys that were completed, Commissioner Stacey Hawkins said she would like to make sure the public has their input taken into consideration as the vacation rental committee begins to review and potentially shape policy specific to short term rentals in Cook County.

Learn more about discussion during the county board from June 28 in the audio below.