OCEAN PINES – Efforts to adopt the county’s short-term rental regulations will move forward next month, but not before the association holds a town hall meeting on the issue.
Last Saturday, Director Frank Daly presented the Ocean Pines Association (OPA) Board of Directors with a recommendation to adopt the county’s short-term rental regulations into the association’s Declaration of Restrictions (DRs) with enhanced enforcement provisions.
“Certainly, I believe the board has given clear instructions that we do not want to eliminate short-term rentals, we do not want to disrupt the short-term rental market in Ocean Pines, but what we want to do is be able to deal with problem properties when they crop up in a more effective manner than what we’ve done in the past,” he said. “The recommendation is to amend the Declaration of Restrictions for each section to exactly follow the county code … No more restrictive, which is the direction of the board, and no less restrictive, which is the rule under Maryland’s law. If you’re renting short-terms, and you’re in compliance with the county, you’re going to be in compliance with Ocean Pines, no questions asked.”
Daly noted the process would allow the association to set up its own penalties for short-term rental violations. While the county has established its own regulations, he explained, it had no resources or budget to enforce them.
“That falls upon us to do that,” he said, “and we can do that with this attorney recommendation.”
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. 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.
As initially proposed, the rental regulations would’ve required 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 also set requirements for annual inspections, maximum occupancy, safety improvements, and off-street parking, among other things.
Last month, however, Daly – a work group member – withdrew his motion to approve proposed short-term rental regulations following objections from short-term rental owners and concerned community members. Since that time, OPA attorneys have worked to draft amendments to the association’s Declaration of Restrictions that achieve the work group’s objections while addressing the community’s concerns.
When asked last week how the association would enforce the adopted short-term rental regulations, Daly said it would be a complaint-driven system.
“The truth is we have never experienced a problem with the property that has a short-term rental license,” he said. “But with properties that are rented short-term that don’t have that license, we’ve had mega problems and so has the county. So if you have a complaint, we’ll address it. But if there’s no complaint, we’re not going to go out looking for trouble. That’s how we do it with our regular DRs, and it works really well.”
Daly noted the general manager could proceed with enforcement after the first offense. He said fines could also be imposed depending on which section of the community the issue occurs.
“Since 1995, the board has had the ability to levy fines to sections developed after 1995 …,” he added. “If there’s no complaints, there’s no fines.”
Director Doug Parks said he wanted to ensure there was a consistent process for enforcing short-term rental regulations.
“Since DRs are section by section, we have a potential of there being an inconsistency,” he said. “These following sections you can provide fines, the other sections you can’t. So I think we need to bear that in mind as we go forward and try to make sure we promote some level of consistency when it comes to enforcement of short-term rentals as we go through all sections of Ocean Pines.”
When asked if the association would require inspections for short-term rentals, Daly said property owners would follow county regulations.
“What we are going to do is follow county guidelines, which is you submit a floorplan to scale, show the egress, show the closets, and send in a picture with it,” he said. “That will eliminate cheating.”
Director Colette Horn also questioned how the association would enforce issues such as noise, trash and parking. Daly said county regulations on litter and noise can be incorporated into its restrictions.
“Nobody wants to touch parking at any level of government that I’ve been able to identify on the Eastern Shore …,” he said. “I think in that case we should follow the old wisdom of let a dead dog lie. If we have to deal with it in the future, let’s deal with it. But it’s really a tough situation.”
Director Tom Janasek said he took issue with the association enforcing county regulations.
“They’re making all the money, they’re putting it in their pocket …,” he said. “There should be a little extra they can pay someone to go and enforce these things, look at these properties and take pictures.”
Janasek noted Ocean Pines property owners could encourage the commissioners to increase fines and enforce short-term rental regulations in a timely manner.
“I believe our focus should be on getting the county to do what they say they are supposed to do rather than us coming up with a whole new set of rules and regulations and doing it ourselves …” he said. “If we put together a grassroots effort … we can be able to do that.”
Daly noted that both efforts could run concurrently.
“If this is on the books, and the county commissioners do what you are saying is their job, then we don’t have a problem and we don’t have to spend any money on enforcement,” he said.
Board President Larry Perrone told board members last week amendments to the association’s declaration of restrictions would require a vote from the owners of each section.
“The process of doing the DRs is not a referendum process,” he said. “It’s a straight up-down vote from the owners of the particular properties. There would be an expense incurred because we have to mail the ballots out to them, but it is a majority vote one way or another, and it does not require a referendum.”
After further discussion, the board agreed to hold a told hall meeting with community members before motions are brought forward at the June meeting.