Mayors and others trooped off for the meeting with the Council of Mallorca on Wednesday to hear more about the holiday rentals zoning and to make their points. The zoning has become a major issue (something of an understatement), and the Council seems to be doing a little backtracking. Criteria for defining "saturation", and so therefore limiting rentals to sixty days per annum in an owner's main place of residence (i.e. where that owner is registered as living by the town hall), may be modified. There may also be some amendment to the total prohibition of rentals on protected rustic land, something which locally affects outlying areas of municipalities.
The potential backtracking, one suspects, will be only slight. When the Council's PIAT plan for intervention in tourist areas finally sees the light of day - it has acquired almost mythical status - it could be that there is greater restriction. One doubts that there will be less. As previously noted, the same consultancy company which worked on the zoning is coming up with the PIAT. It would be most surprising if the zoning and the PIAT are not very similar.
The Council may, nevertheless, have recognised that the approval of the zoning was only by one vote and also have recognised that certain town halls have expressed strong opposition. There remains, however, a large slice of politics to all this: right versus left. It was, therefore, slightly surprising to hear Pollensa's mayor, Miquel Àngel March, declare on Thursday that Pollensa (the town) is not saturated. He had previously intimated that he was satisfied with this classification. But March, for all his back story as a one-time spokesperson for environmentalists GOB, is doing a reasonable job in being what a mayor should be - a representative for everyone, and so not just of specific ideologies.
March was speaking at another meeting - one at the Club Pollença organised by the Pollensa residents association and led by the holiday rentals association Aptur. He said that, based on objective data, Pollensa is not saturated. These data include water consumption. He also pointed out that 90% of properties currently for holiday rental are legal. These aren't affected by the zoning or indeed by the rentals legislation. They carry on as before.
The mayor added that the town hall will be making its submissions to the Council of Mallorca. One guesses that these will be requests to remove the saturation classification from the town and also La Font and El Vilà. If so, this isn't going to play well in some quarters, not least the Alternativa per Pollença. March is walking a delicate political tightrope. Members of his ruling administration are likely to feel the same as the Alternativa; a couple are from Més, after all, even if the mayor isn't.
March will also have taken note of what the president of Aptur said about elections. The association is making holiday rentals a key election issue. He called on the one hundred or so people attending the meeting to join Aptur, adding that the election results can be influenced.
Hovering in the background, therefore, are ex-mayor Tomeu Cifre's Tots per Pollença. Cifre, it needs reminding, attempted back in 2012 to get the Partido Popular government of José Ramón Bauzá to give Pollensa some special treatment in the tourism law of that year. Cifre understood, as many others did and do, that Pollensa is heavily dependent on rentals. He wanted some adjustment to regulations which might have facilitated more legal renting. He failed, and this was just one reason that he ended up on a collision course with Bauzá that culminated in his leaving the PP and forming Tots.
The reaction of Tots to the Club Pollença meeting was instructive in as much as the party drew attention to March's apparent U-turn in attitude towards saturation. Cifre's group also criticised the town hall administration for not having set up a committee to consider the whole issue of rentals before the Council came out with its zoning plans. Quite what this committee would have achieved is anyone's guess, but Tots are blaming March and the administration for having adopted a "passive attitude".
Tots, in addition to eliminating the saturation classifications, want an increase in the number of rental places available in Puerto Pollensa (and Cala San Vicente). There may of course be an increase, but it is still unclear - regardless of the zoning that enables 365-day-a-year rental in the resorts - what the number will be. The party points that there are, after all, only 30,000 places for the whole island, a number it considers to be "absolutely inadequate". Whatever allocation Puerto Pollensa might end up with, Tots also refer to the fact that these new licences will be subject to renewal after five years. The party suggests that renewals will not necessarily happen, and so therefore there will be "continuous degrowth" of rentals places.
In Alcudia there hasn't been anything like the same amount of noise as that which has emanated from Pollensa. Mayor Toni Mir has said he's not happy with the saturation classification for the town, but he - like March - has his own tightrope to walk. It was perhaps significant that at the Council of Mallorca meeting he was accompanied by Domingo Bonnin, who is from the same party - El Pi, which favours more liberal regulation. Bonnin is the councillor for services. Absent, therefore, were either the deputy mayor, Pere Malondra, or the councillor for tourism and institutional affairs, Joan Vallori. Both of them are from PSOE, and in the case of Vallori, the rentals issue in terms of tourism and dealing with an institution - the Council of Mallorca - would seem to be squarely in his portfolio.
For now, a firm lid is being placed on any discussion in Alcudia.