OCEAN PINES – Ocean Pines Association officials continued discussion of how to regulate short-term rentals this week.
At a meeting Wednesday, the board agreed not to proceed with a motion to move toward banning rentals of less than a week. Instead, a work group will continue to investigate possible solutions and officials will find a way to gauge resident feelings on the issue.
“I think all of this discussion contributes to the investigation and the other discussions that the work group is going to have,” said Doug Parks, OPA president. “It’s good for us to have this kind of interaction.”
In response to problems associated with certain short-term rental properties within the Pines, the board has focused the past several weeks on how to address the parking and trash issues that have been identified with some short-term rental houses. Board member Frank Daly made a motion to have lawyers develop language to ban rentals of less than a week and to take the language to referendum on Wednesday’s agenda. As he presented it, he added that another option was to pursue a text amendment through the county that would allow for better enforcement.
Board member Tom Janasek was quick to object to any sort of ban.
“We’re basing it on, I don’t want to say a few, but we’re basing it on some properties in the Pines that are blatantly disregarding the rules the county has put forth last year in order to make sure this doesn’t happen with rentals,” he said. “Not all of these places that are Airbnbs are as derelict as the ones we’ve been discussing for the last two weeks.”
He said the association shouldn’t do more than it already had—reaching out to the county regarding certain problem rentals.
“In the last two weeks we’ve gotten the zoning and enforcement agency of the county to actually get off their butts and come and go after these people,” he said, adding that the rental license fee the county required allowed them to do enforcement. “As a community and as a board we’ve done the right thing in going to the county in saying this is your law, you made it, it’s time to start enforcing it. You’ve collected the monies and now it’s time.”
He added that there were many homeowners in the Pines who wanted to be able to rent their properties.
“There’s a lot of people that come into Ocean Pines that aren’t ready to retire yet,” he said. “They’re buying some of these derelict homes, they’re fixing them up then they’re renting them for a couple years until they can retire.”
Daly said he knew there were a variety of stakeholders involved, which was why he wanted a potential ban to go to referendum. He said the county licensing program had been largely ineffective in terms of rapid enforcement.
“We’re in the same place today that we were last year,” he said. “I don’t want to be in the same position in 2021. That’s why I want to get this in front of the people. Let them make the determination.”
Board member Larry Perrone said he agreed something had to be done but thought the primary issue was the number of a people in a rental, not the length of time the property was rented.
“I do agree we need to do something to try to get control of these properties that are out of control,” he said.
Parks said he thought a text amendment through the county would be better than language in the association’s declarations of restrictions.
Board member Steve Tuttle said that since the problem rentals had been brought to the county’s attention, county staff were working to take action. He said residents had to do their part by reporting issues in their neighborhoods.
“Our residents need to help us as well,” he said.
Daly said he had no problem with going the text amendment route but thought county officials would want to see that Pines residents supported whatever language was being proposed.
“We don’t have those numbers unless we ask people,” he said.
Board member Colette Horn said the association could do that by hosting a town hall meeting, which would not carry the expense of a referendum. Tuttle said another option was a survey.
Horn pointed out that owner-occupied properties often had the same issues some of the rentals did.
“… I’d like the work group to discuss whether that language could address that behavior regardless of who was engaging in that behavior,” she said. “The parking, the trash, the nuisance behavior and the noise. These are all things people have complained about.”
Perrone said he supported the idea of a town hall meeting to discuss rentals.
“I think it’s a great idea that we go ahead and maybe have a town hall meeting to get some feedback from the community,” he said. “’Ultimately, if there’s pushback from the county, our response is the residents of Ocean Pines elected the seven of us to represent them.”