Hybrid Format Set For Short-Term Rental Town Hall

OCEAN PINES – A town hall on proposed short-term rental regulations will be held in a hybrid format next week.

On April 17 at 9 a.m., the Ocean Pines Association (OPA) Board of Directors will hold a town hall meeting to discuss proposed short-term rental guidelines.

The town hall – to be hosted upstairs at the Ocean Pines Yacht Club – will also be livestreamed using Microsoft Teams.

“Live capacity will be limited to 100 people because of COVID-19 restrictions,” a statement from the association reads. “Residents will be given priority to speak, and nonresidents will not be allowed to make statements.”

Late last month, the OPA Board of Directors withdrew a motion to approve proposed short-term rental guidelines after spending nearly two hours fielding questions and concerns regarding regulations, enforcement and long-term impacts on the community.

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Instead, the board announced plans for a town hall meeting to discuss the proposed guidelines.

“If, from that town hall meeting, adjustments need to be made to the short-term rental motion, then it will give the work group time to do that,” President Larry Perrone said at the time. “But we want to have a vote by the next board meeting, and I think it’s appropriate.”

Last year, an Ocean Pines work group began meeting with community stakeholders to draft proposed changes to the association’s architectural guidelines on short-term rental properties.

As proposed, the rental regulations would require single-family residences rented for 28 days or less to have both a Worcester County rental permit and Ocean Pines rental permit and sticker.

It would also require short-term rental owners or representatives to live within 30 minutes of the property and to respond to and address complaints. Rental permits will be withdrawn for a period of one year if residences do not comply with occupancy and safety requirements.

The proposed regulations also require annual inspections to ensure the residence complies with maximum occupancy and safety requirements, which are also outlined. Officials say the proposed guidelines are complaint-driven and match what is required by the county in its short-term rental regulations.

“In serious, egregious, life-threatening, safety-threatening, property-threatening situations or repeat violations, the general manager today has the authority under the declaration of restrictions to immediately request board action,” Director Frank Daly, a work group member, told community members last month. “None of that today applies to short-term rentals. There is nothing in our governing documents that controls short-term rentals or enables us to regulate them in any way. That’s why this started out.”

According to association officials, there are roughly 180 short-term rentals in Ocean Pines. They noted, however, ongoing issues at three or four properties prompted the association to tighten controls on the short-term rentals.

More than 100 people – including short-term rental owners and representatives from the Coastal Association of Realtors – joined last month’s virtual meeting, and several voiced their concerns about the proposed short-term rental regulations and when they would take effect.

“I think we’re overcorrecting for the sins of a few, and penalizing everyone,” resident Mike Lombardi said.

Community members also called on the association’s board to hold a virtual town hall meeting.

“This is a really big deal,” property owner Theo Margas said. “I really insist that you guys make this town hall virtual, or have everyone be able to show up … I beseech you, this community is beseeching you, to make it a public town hall.”

For more information on the hybrid format, visit oceanpines.org.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.