Talbot planners discuss short term rentals
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.