Ocean Pines Continues Short-Term Rental Discussion

Ocean Pines Continues Short-Term Rental Discussion
A rental home, the subject of crowding complaints in the past, is pictured in Ocean Pines. Submitted Photo

OCEAN PINES – A discussion on proposed short-term rental regulations highlighted a town hall meeting late last week.

On Saturday, property owners both for and against the association’s proposed short-term rental regulations attended a town hall meeting to share their questions and concerns.

Board Director Frank Daly told attendees last week a motion to incorporate Worcester County’s code on short-term rentals, litter and noise into the Declaration of Restrictions would be brought forth at the June meeting of the Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors.

He said the approach would be no more restrictive on owner property rights than the existing law, but would give Ocean Pines the power to enforce and fine property owners who violate the code. To change the Declaration of Restrictions, he said, property owners would vote section by section.

“Whichever way that goes determines whether the Declaration of Restrictions are changed,” he said. “That’s basically where we are at and what we are prepared to do … This is one case where all 8,452 lot owners should really have their voices heard.”

During public comments last week, property owner and local property manager Bill Haase told board members he thought the proposed rental regulations targeted short-term properties. He argued problem properties among long-term rentals and permanent residences also existed throughout the community.

“I think the nuisances short-term rentals get blamed for is a community problem,” he said. “Even if we erased the short-term rentals, made them go away, we would still have the nuisance.”

Officials agreed it was something to take into consideration, but added the process with all problem properties begin with reporting the issue.

“You make a good point,” President Larry Perrone said. “But the same process would start with a call to the police department. If you are having rowdy people, a call to the police department and they can go to that house.”

Haase also argued that the association’s adoption of short-term rental guidelines could encourage short-term property owners to convert to long-term rentals, which he argued had less restrictions.

“The short-term rental population feels targeted …,” he said. “We have to walk the letter of the law, where other people may not have to.”

Director Colette Horn said she agreed with Haase’s points.

“I would like to see these regulations applied to long-term rentals and permanent residences,” she said. “I see this as a step in that direction.”

Homeowners this week also urged the board to address parking issues related to rental properties. Daly noted parking was the one topic absent from the proposed short-term rental regulations.

“We can’t stop people from parking on the side of the road,” he said. “We’ve looked at this issue over and over again … My own feeling is that is one of the things we have to deal with here in Ocean Pines.”

One short-term rental owner said she did not like the way the association characterized short-term rentals.

Board members told attendees last week the problem was not with the short-term rental owners who use property managers and abide by the rules, but with owners who list their properties on sites like Airbnb and VRBO and don’t handle issues that arise.

“We understand that properties that are managed … they’re not the people we are going after,” Perrone said. “The reality is that Airbnb and VRBO are the ones causing the problems. And we’re trying to get a mechanism together where we can put some pressure to bring some change in that area.”

Daly said enforcement of short-term rental regulations would be complaint driven and would include a mechanism for levying fines and suspending a member’s ability to engage in short-term rentals.

He also read, “The Declarations of Restrictions for Sections 15B, 16, 17, 18 and 19, executed by entities other than the ‘Boise Cascade’ Restrictions, already provide that the lots are subject to all ‘… federal, state or local laws, rules or regulations, specifically including without limitation, the Worcester County Zoning Ordinance … ‘ Therefore, the obligation to comply with the Short-Term Rental provisions of the County Code are already contained in those Section’s Declarations of Restrictions and, in my judgment, have not the same requirement for the inception in the Boise Sections of the authority to regulate Short-Term Rentals in the manner established by the Worcester County Zoning Code. Said Restrictions also provide for the imposition of fines.”

A full video of last week’s town hall meeting can be viewed on the Ocean Pines Association’s YouTube channel.

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.