SNOW HILL – County officials are moving forward with a countywide rental license program.
The Worcester County Commissioners on Tuesday reviewed four bills that would enable the county to create a comprehensive rental license program that would apply to short and long-term residential rentals. Director of Development Review and Permitting Ed Tudor told the commissioners he’d been reviewing the county’s existing code and working to develop the necessary bills since January. He said numerous inconsistencies within the zoning code and taxation and revenue article had made it a slow process.
“I sat down and tried to straighten out to the best of my ability all those things and get all the language consistent and to come up with a recommendation for you all to consider that would address, I believe, the things you wanted to try to address,” he said.
He went over each bill at Tuesday’s work session. The first would extensively update zoning regulations, removing antiquated language and revising definitions. The second bill repeals the section of code concerning tourist permits and replaces it with a new section on rental licenses.
“As drafted so far, this section would require a rental license for any type of building, dwelling, recreational vehicle or any other form of shelter for lodging or domicile regardless of the rental term,” he wrote in his report to the commissioners.
The final two bills update language with regard to rental units and repeal the section of code related to mobile and manufactured home park licenses. The latter would also eliminate the excise tax for mobile home parks. According to Tudor the revenue lost by eliminating the tax could be made up by setting a rental license fee for the individual mobile or manufactured home sites.
During Tuesday’s discussion, many of the commissioners’ comments were related to issues associated with short term rentals. In an effort to address the modern day use of platforms like Airbnb, Tudor proposed a new section that would regulate short term rentals. It limits the number of rental contracts for a property to one per night regardless of the number of bedrooms. It also limits the number of rooms to rent to two.
Tudor said what he considered the crux of the issue was ensuring that every single rental in the county was licensed.
“Without licensing it makes it a little more difficult enforcement-wise,” he said.
Commissioner Joe Mitrecic said the licensing would also help protect renters.
“This is a necessary, if you want to call it, evil,” he said.
Commissioner Jim Bunting said he wanted to make sure houses being used for short term rentals didn’t result in cars being parked all through the surrounding neighborhood. He said that was an issue some of his constituents were already dealing with and suggested the proposed bills address parking.
“A person has a right to live in a subdivision without a business next to them that disrupts their life,” he said.
Tudor said he would be discussing the proposed zoning changes with the county’s planning commission later in the week. The zoning bill and the three associated rental licensing bills will likely be introduced by the commissioners later this month. All of the draft bills are available on the county’s website, www.co.worcester.md.us.