Tal­bot plan­ners dis­cuss short term rentals

Sunday Star - - FRONT PAGE - By RICHARD POLK rpolk@ches­pub.com rpolk@ches­pub.com

The Tal­bot County Plan­ning Com­mis­sion lis­tened to pros and cons of short term rental ar­range­ments dur­ing a pub­lic hear­ing at the com­mis­sion’s meet­ing Wed­nes­day. The pub­lic was in­vited to pro­vide in­put on pro­posed mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the county’s code.

EAS­TON — The Tal­bot County Plan­ning Com­mis­sion lis­tened to pros and cons of short term rental ar­range­ments dur­ing a pub­lic hear­ing at the com­mis­sion’s meet­ing Wed­nes­day.

The hear­ing came at the end of the com­mis­sion’s monthly meet­ing in the Bradley Meet­ing Room at the Tal­bot County Court­house.

The pub­lic was in­vited to pro­vide in­put on pro­posed mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the county’s code.

A group from the Rio Vista com­mu­nity in St. Michaels ex­pressed op­po­si­tion to code mod­i­fi­ca­tions re­gard­ing STRs in the county. They shared their is­sues with the com­mis­sion re­gard­ing a house be­ing used for STRs in their com­mu­nity.

Mon­ica Otte told the com­mis­sion their covenants do not al­low STRs in their com­mu­nity, but that hasn’t stopped the house from be­ing used that way. She has com­plained about loud late-night par­ties and large groups of peo­ple that ap­peared to ex­ceed the oc­cu­pancy of two per bed­room.

“The draft rules do state that the busi­ness should com­ply with any covenants or com­mu­nity rules. I think that is a good start,” she said.

Otte was at the hear­ing with a group that had Tshirts with “STR” on the back with a slash through it, like a sign that for­bids ac­cess to an area. On the front was a re­quest to pro­tect the com­mu­ni­ties.

Ralph Demarco, Otte’s hus­band, also spoke. He said that the threat of fines didn’t help. The house ran out of ren­ters. The prop­erty had been delisted as an STR unit be­cause it had been given a bad re­view, Demarco said.

One week­end res­i­dent, Jay East­man, said he had been threat­ened by an STR cus­tomer when he took pic­tures of the peo­ple on the prop­erty. The cus­tomer said he had knocked peo­ple’s teeth out for tak­ing pic­tures.

A com­plaint to the re­al­tor man­ag­ing the prop­erty did not prove to be sat­is­fac­tory. He also said that a re­fer­ral to the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s board of ethics did not elicit a re­sponse. He never got a re­turn call from the board’s at­tor­ney, he said.

Bad re­views are the “kiss of death,” Demarco said. Each of the anti-STR speak­ers spoke of tres­pass, noise and prop­erty de­struc­tion.

One res­i­dent said his shore­line that had been im­proved for shore­line re­ten­tion had been dam­aged by ren­ters.

The STRs had sup­port­ers at the hear­ing as well. Duane Hil­gh­man, chair­man of the Gov­ern­ment Af­fairs Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee of the Mid-Shore Board of Real­tors, said one third of homes in the coun­try are rented. Such ren­ters as STRs play a large eco­nomic ben­e­fit to a lo­cal re­gion.

“STRs have in­creased lo­cal economies. They have al­lowed home­own­ers to keep their in­vest­ment and help them to se­cure their fu­ture re­tire­ment home,” he said.

He fur­ther stated that home­own­ers have a con­sti­tu­tional right to use their homes as they see fit as long as there is not a nui­sance or safety hazard.

All prop­erty own­ers should have the right to lease prop­erty for ei­ther short term or long term use.

“It is in­cum­bent to treat prop­erty own­ers equally,” Hil­gh­man said.

Ken Mann and Jim Camp­bell of Eastern Shore Va­ca­tion Rentals also tes­ti­fied at the hear­ing. It is a lo­cally owned and op­er­ated busi­ness, Mann said.

Mann said they have not had these prob­lems with their rental prop­er­ties and sym­pa­thized with the plight of some of the lo­cal prop­erty own­ers.

Mann said that most prop­erty own­ers who live out­side the area have pro­fes­sional prop­erty man­agers for the prop­er­ties. They have not had those prob­lems with the prop­er­ties they man­age.

The hear­ing was part of an ef­fort to get com­mu­nity in­put into the re­view of the county’s up­date of Chap­ter 190 of the County Code. The STR is­sue is just one of the seg­ments of the code re­view. There will be more hear­ings in coming weeks by both the com­mis­sion and the Coun­cil Coun­cil.

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