County Approves Accessary Apartment Change

SNOW HILL – County officials approved a text amendment that will ease restrictions associated with accessory apartments this week.

On Tuesday, the Worcester County Commissioners approved a text amendment that eliminates the requirement that the property owner reside in either the primary dwelling unit or the accessory apartment on the premises. Commissioner Jim Bunting, who with Commissioner Chip Bertino opposed the change, said it would only exacerbate the county’s rental problems.

“It’s very apparent what’s being done here is to try to create an area, a place where a person can have a main residence and an accessory apartment and use it for rentals,” Bunting said.

Attorney Hugh Cropper, who submitted the text amendment on behalf of Kathy Clark, said there were various reasons for the proposed change. He said he wasn’t seeking to eliminate any of the requirements associated with accessory apartments, just the stipulation that the property owner had to reside on site. He said the requirement was no longer necessary now that the county had a rental licensing program to monitor rentals.

Cropper also said that many properties these days were owned by limited liability companies (LLCs), which would make it cumbersome for county staff to even determine who should be residing on the property if they were trying to enforce the owner-occupied requirement.

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Bertino asked why the property owner had been required to reside in one of the dwellings in the first place.

“It’s been on the books for a long long time,” said Ed Tudor, the county’s director of development review and permitting. “It’s my understanding that it was to try to look out for, that there was somebody on the property responsible for that other unit… As Mr. Cropper pointed out with the new licensing regulations, we have houses rented all the time. At least now we do have contact numbers and responsible parties have to be available.”

Bunting expressed concern that if a property with an accessory apartment was used as a rental, parking could become a problem.

“As everybody knows I’m no fan of our rental laws,” he said. “It seems to me the purpose is for it to become a business, for Airbnbs or whatever you call them, which we all know winds up having 10 or 15 people or 20 people staying there.”

Tudor said the county’s regular parking requirements would still apply to a property whether the property owner was on site or not.

“This wouldn’t eliminate parking requirements,” he said.

The commissioners voted 5-2, with Bunting and Bertino opposed, to approve the text amendment.

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.