When it comes to the drafting of short-term rental regulations in Ocean Pines and other areas, the philosophy needs to be don’t let perfect get in the way of good.
There is no magic formula to address some of the ills associated with short-term rentals, such as crowding, trash and noise. Governments should do what they can to protect their neighborhoods from being overrun with short-term rental properties because it’s highly likely inevitable issues will arise with these types of renters. It’s a delicate balancing act.
According to Ocean Pines officials, there are about 180 short-term rentals in the community, meaning properties rented for less than 28 days. Proposed is the requirement for a Worcester County rental permit ($200 annually) and an Ocean Pines rental permit be secured. Ocean Pines’ permit will require annual inspections to monitor occupancy limits and off-street parking space requirements. Additionally, the guidelines would require property owners or their representatives, such as an Airbnb host or rental company, to live within 30 minutes.
A work group has studied the matter for about a year in Ocean Pines. Last week the public had an opportunity to weigh in on the planned short-term rental regulations with a majority not in favor of what is proposed. Therefore, a town hall meeting has been planned.
Though it’s been studied by the community’s work group, the timing of this move is wrong. Resident Mike Lombardi was right when he said at last week’s meeting, “I think we’re overcorrecting for the sins of a few, and penalizing everyone.” Additionally, there are private property rights issues to contend with when it comes to these changes. Ocean Pines may be going too fair with its regulations on top of what the county has in place.
With the board to further consider the proposed regulations on April 17 with a vote to follow the next week, the concerns for the coming season are real. A brief online glance around Ocean Pines properties on Airbnb this week compared to last week confirms bookings are being made for this season in swift fashion. It will be a major problem for rental companies and the private homeowners to lose the rental income should the changes put in place be put into effect immediately. Fairness questions from homeowners are understandable.
Ocean Pines would be wise to not rush to pass new regulations one month before the season. The timing is unfair. Worcester County’s own short-term rental regulations went into effect last year and apply to Ocean Pines. Rather than making its own more onerous rules, the better approach is to focus on enforcing existing regulations with the season so close with a re-evaluation in the fall.