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Do property rights matter? Rexburg is about to find out

Do property rights matter? Rexburg is about to find out

Lindsay Russell Dexter
September 9, 2016

There is nothing more invigorating than participating in local politics. Watching mayors and city councils hash out policy issues that affect the day-to-day lives of their neighbors and families is incredible. Most often, city governments are tasked with administrative and slightly mundane decisions. However, every now and again a controversial issue arises that has the potential of disturbing the lives of numerous citizens.

The Rexburg mayor and city councilors have found themselves in the middle of an issue they may not have been anticipating. The Rexburg code enforcement officer, who answers to the mayor and city council, sent out cease and desist letters to several members of the community who host Airbnb and VRBO visitors in their homes for pay.

At the heart of the issue is the question: Do individuals have the right to use and control their personal property so long as others are not harmed or unduly disturbed?

Wednesday night, the mayor and city council held their regular meeting. On the top of the agenda was the usual public comment portion. This time usually goes unfilled or has the occasional comment. However, last night the room was filled with people who support personal property rights and voiced their opposition to the code officer’s mandate that they cease their participation in Airbnb and VRBO.

Despite the mayor’s plea to wait and comment until the September 21 city council meeting, the people of Rexburg clung to their constitutional rights and took the opportunity to air their grievances. Not a single person advocated to deny individuals who live in low-density areas their property rights. In fact, every person who gave testimony was in favor of Airbnb and VRBO and came armed with a slew of stories and experiences depicting how home-sharing has enriched their lives.

Judging from the testimony, it is safe to assume the citizens of Rexburg are in favor of allowing individuals the right to do with their property as they see fit, so long as they are not disturbing those around them. The mayor and city council may vote on this issue by the end of the month. Hopefully, they will remember who put them in their council chambers.

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