As We See It: When rules are needed

Posted: 05/05/2011 01:30:08 AM PDT

There’s a fine line between government putting in place safeguards for the majority — and overregulation.

This tension is always there. For example, environmental and planning regulations often come up against the ability of local firms and businesses to provide jobs and tax revenues that help support the very government bureaucracies creating new laws.

The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved not one but two new sets of regulations that have been criticized as overregulation — unless you knew that both received extensive public airings and were subjected to considerable debate.

In one vote, supervisors approved an ordinance putting limits on vacation rentals. The law is the end result of years of complaints by neighbors, mainly in the Live Oak beach area, about overcrowding, noise and loud parties, public intoxication, parking, and trash from rentals, many of which have out-of-town ownership and are advertised over the Internet.

Among the provisions: requiring a licensing system for Live Oak vacation rentals, with renewal needed every five years. This has drawn sharp criticism from owners who think they’ll be at the mercy of neighbors who may or may not have legitimate cases about possible violations.

Pajaro Valley Supervisor Greg Caput was the lone dissenting vote, saying the problems could be handled under existing laws and there was no need to create new layers of rules.

While we wonder if the budget-strapped if the county government will have the wherewithal to effectively oversee the vacation rental program, truth is, the problems were not being handled under existing laws. Rental owners had plenty of opportunities to have their voices heard and the regulations that were approved are hardly draconian.

The Live Oak area will still have plenty of vacation rentals — but now the owners have a new impetus for being good neighbors.

In their other regulatory action, supervisors unanimously approved rules regulating medical marijuana dispensaries.

The county has lagged behind many other communities and local governments in getting rules in place to deal with the burgeoning medical pot movement that has been rife with opportunism and law enforcement issues.

The rules require dispensaries and collectives to operate as nonprofits and to keep at least 600 feet from schools and 800 feet from other marijuana operations.

The ordinance approved by supervisors did not, however, put a cap on the number of dispensaries. Santa Cruz has put a limit of two within city limits and last month, while San Jose limited the number of medical marijuana operations to 10.

We have our doubts that without some sort of cap, regulations will provide order to what has been a somewhat chaotic startup. That may come later, however.

The county’s action was overdue, but welcome.