Commissioners Approve New Rental License Program; Citizen Outcry Leads To Reduced Short-Term Rental Fees

Commissioners Approve New Rental License Program; Citizen Outcry Leads To Reduced Short-Term Rental Fees
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SNOW HILL – Worcester County officials this week approved a short-term rental license fee of $200.

The Worcester County Commissioners on Tuesday voted 4-2 to approve a resolution that formally establishes the county’s new rental license fees. Acknowledging public concern regarding the $400 short-term rental license fee initially proposed, the commissioners reduced that rate to $200. Commissioner Bud Church, a longtime member of the real estate industry, said he’d received hundreds of emails on the issue.

“I’ve been doing this 48 years,” he said. “It’s the highest fee that I’ve seen ever proposed for a rental property. I think it’s a disproportionate fee … I think there’s going to be major repercussions if we go with a $400 fee.”

The commissioners have spent the past several months working to implement a rental license program. Staff this week presented a proposed fee schedule, plans to hire two new employees and a proposal to purchase new software to process and account for the properties involved.

The majority of the commissioners’ concerns related to the proposed fees, which included a $400 license fee for short-term rentals, a $100 fee for long-term rentals and a fee of $400 per lot for mobile home parks.

Ed Tudor, the county’s director of development review and permitting, said staff had developed the proposed rates but that the final decision was up to the commissioners.

“We had a goal in mind and that was to make the program self sufficient,” he said. “If you want to change those rates, we’re not bound to those.”

According to Tudor, implementing the licensing program would require two additional staff members as well as the software to monitor and process the county’s rental properties.

Commissioner Joe Mitrecic said that considering the public pushback officials had been receiving regarding the proposed $400 short-term rental fee, he thought cutting that in half and hiring just one new employee might be more appropriate.

“I’m a full steam ahead kind of guy, but I think we need to step back and maybe crawl a little bit until we see how this first year’s going to shake out for us,” he said.

Commissioner Chip Bertino said he too had concerns with the $400 fee.

“I appreciate everything you’re doing here but since this impacts Ocean Pines significantly I have a problem with the appearance of, and the reality of, Ocean Pines people being put at a disadvantage,” he said.

Church stressed that the $400 fee was disproportionate. He said $175 or $200 would be more justifiable.

Commissioner Josh Nordstrom said he worried that the proposed $100 rate for long-term rentals would hurt tenants because property owners would pass the expense on to them.

“A lot of people rent because they can’t afford to buy…,” he said. “I understand why you included every kind of rental but I don’t want it to be passed on to the people that are barely getting by today.”

Commissioner Jim Bunting expressed concern with the $400 per lot mobile home park fee. He said that could really hurt tenants in the county’s 13 mobile home parks.

“If they get passed on this $400 from the park owner, which they’ll have to do, that’s a bigger hurt than $100,” he said.

Mitrecic made a motion to approve the proposed resolution setting license fees but to reduce the short-term rental fee to $200 and to cut the mobile home park fee to $200 per lot and to reduce the long-term rental rate to $50. The motion, which also included approval for the purchase of the software and the hiring of one new employee, passed with a 4-2 vote. Nordstrom and Commissioner Diana Purnell were opposed while Commissioner Ted Elder was absent.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.