OCEAN PINES – Ocean Pines Association officials are exploring ways to tighten controls on short-term rentals to ensure they don’t become a problem for neighbors.
The Ocean Pines Association (OPA) Board of Directors hosted a special meeting June 23 to discuss ongoing complaints about the house at 91 Abbyshire Rd. as well as issues related to short-term rentals as a whole.
“We certainly have this as a high priority on our radar screen,” said Doug Parks, OPA president. “I’m not going to set your expectations that everything will be fixed tomorrow, because it won’t, but I think we now have the responsibility as a board to take this information and generate the kind of discussion, the kind of options and the kinds of solutions that we could put in place to ensure our residents don’t have to put up with the kinds of things the folks at 91 Abbyshire are putting up with on a fairly regular basis now.”
Board member Steve Tuttle said the board had received emails from various people regarding issues at 91 Abbyshire Rd.
“It’s a very serious problem,” he said. “We’ve seen the trash piled up there. All the directors have been by there at least once if not more. I was over there Sunday and there were about six cars in the driveway and a big truck parked on the side of the road. We’ve certainly heard from various residents with concerns about the noise and the disruption in the middle of the night. It’s just unacceptable.”
Tuttle said he’d shared residents’ concerns with Worcester County Commissioner Chip Bertino, who represents the Pines, and that Bertino had been in contact with county zoning staff regarding the property. Parks said he’d reached out to Airbnb, where the home was advertised as a short-term rental, to complain.
“They are still looking into it,” he said.
Board members Camilla Rogers and Colette Horn said OPA needed to be able to take action.
“We don’t have the authority to fine,” Parks said, adding that he believed it was time OPA adjust its declarations of restrictions to allow the homeowners association to issue fines.
Board member Frank Daly said that idea had received a lot of community pushback the last time it was discussed. He said he thought it might be easier to ask the county for specific legislation to help.
“The residents on Abbyshire have a real serious problem and nobody has the right piece of law in their hands to correct it,” he said.
Rogers said the board needed to do something, since the neighbors of the Abbyshire property — and likely many other property owners throughout the Pines — had been dealing with short-term rental issues for years.
Board member Larry Perrone said it was a complex problem that needed a long-term solution.
“With all the complicated issues we’re talking about I think we need legal counsel on this one to find out exactly what we can and can’t do,” he said.
Parks said Tuesday’s meeting was intended to give the board a chance to discuss the problem to better understand it.
He said the discussion would continue in July, when the board is expected to consider a motion to have legal counsel draft language to amend the association’s declarations of restrictions to ban rentals of less than one week and then to put it to OPA members for a referendum vote.
“I think that will allow us to continue the discussion,” Parks said, adding that officials would also continue dialogue with Bertino and do more research on the issue. Other board members said they’d like to see a workgroup created to address the problem.
When contacted Wednesday, Bertino said he was aware of concerns regarding the house at 91 Abbyshire Rd. and that citations would likely be issued. Just last year the county implemented a rental license program that regulates short-term rentals.
“We are working very diligently on this issue,” Bertino said. “It’s an opportunity for a case study in how to apply the new law we’ve put in place.”
He said the law did have some teeth and would hopefully encourage property owners to address any issues.
“I think the neighbors of any property causing a problem should feel they have recourse…,” he said. “What good is it to have a law if we’re not going to enforce it?”