Voices From The Readers – July 9, 2021

Voices From The Readers – July 9, 2021

Tackle Litter, Safety First

Editor:

In January the Ocean City Council voted to move forward a three-phase conceptual plan for redeveloping the recreation park complex between 3rd street and 4th street along the bayside.

First phase: to re-purpose the current fenced-in baseball field and create an open flexible lawn area surrounded by trees for pick-up sports and a pavilion / band stage for concerts.

Second phase: to expand the skate park, reposition the basketball court and improve the playground area.

Atlantic General Hospitals 28th Annual Penguin Swim

Third phase: to construct restrooms near the location of the pavilion/band stage.

Revitalizing the downtown park area is welcomed and certainly is needed, however let’s not put the cart before the horse.

Before the first phase begins all the town’s resources (business, residents and government) should be focused on solving summer’s reoccurring problems: the out of control litter and disturbing and threatening activity in the neighborhood surrounding the park.

After all a clean and safe place to play is “the primary goal.”

Newt Weaver

Margaret Pillas

(The writers serve as Downtown Neighborhood Watch Coordinators.)

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Short-Term Rentals Needed In Berlin

Editor:

(The following letter was to members of the Berlin Town Council.)

First, thank you for letting me speak the other night at the work session on short-term rentals.

I just wanted to review a few main points:

  1. Berlin is a destination city and frankly doesn’t have enough adequate housing to take care of guests, tourists, or special events. Having short-term rental housing available fills a need.
  2. The town allows long term rentals but not short term in R1 or R2. That fact seems very subjective to me. Frankly, I don’t understand that you can rent long term, but you can’t rent short term.
  3. Short-term rentals only function in flawless homes, apartments and townhomes, etc. Things I may let go in my own yard cannot be “let go” with these short-term rentals or the owner will get complaints and have to refund money. Short term rentals are usually high-end well-kept properties. I know this through my years of managing short-term rentals for my clients.
  4. All of the owners that I know and myself — six total — personally have no problem with regulation and or oversight. Diminishing the possibility to rent your home short term seems like a slippery slope. Many towns have lost cases in parts of the country. Berlin doesn’t really have the time or resources to deal with these legal challenges.

New York City, the biggest tourist destination in the United States, is naturally no stranger to Airbnb. However, Airbnb took the city to court in August 2018 over a new law that would require Airbnb and other home-sharing companies to provide the city’s enforcement agency the hosts’ names and addresses each month.

Airbnb claimed the law violated its users’ privacy and constitutional rights. New York City is Airbnb’s largest market, but, according to the city, as many as two-thirds of Airbnb’s listings are illegal. In January 2019, a federal judge blocked the law after declaring it unconstitutional.

When a similar law was enacted in San Francisco, the number of listings on Airbnb dropped by 50%. San Francisco adopted a similar policy as New York: Airbnb rentals are allowed only if hosts are full-time residents, rentals are capped at 90 days and all hosts must register with the city. Violators are subject to a fine $484 a day for first-time offenders and $968 a day for repeat offenders. However, despite these stipulations, the San Francisco Chronicle reported only a fraction of Airbnb hosts have actually complied with the new law.

  1. Whomever said we are looking for a problem to make a law hit the nail on the head. I appreciate the town being proactive, but I believe both sides of the issue would appreciate “baby steps” to really see if an issue exists at all.
  2. In closing, I would recommend as a R1 resident and property manager, simple regulations and simple steps for both property owners and potential rental owners to earn income, enjoy freedoms of managing your property as you see fit, and creating a safe and quiet community. Therefore, I would recommend allowing short-term rentals in all areas of the town. Those properties must have a registration with the town and punitive steps to restrict rentals if the property doesn’t mesh with the town of Berlin.

I would also like to be a resource to anyone on the board or in the community with questions about short-term rentals.

Todd Martinek

Berlin

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RIP Moonshadow

Editor:

On Aug. 21, 2017, while the east coast was busy viewing a total solar eclipse, a beautiful filly was born on Assateague to mare Johnny’s Star. Since they spent their time in the developed area, visitors were captivated by her. Everyone likes to see a baby doing zoomies. Her nickname soon became the “eclipse” baby.

Johnny’s Star was a devoted mother, keeping Moonshadow safe and even occasionally nursing for nearly two years. They relocated bands several times and also spent time alone. Fonzi was Moonshadow’s father, but they also spent time with stallion Corky. They seemed to prefer an independent life, not one run by a stallion. Moonshadow particularly disliked the stallion Chip for “snaking” them back to his band. Moonshadow gave him a swift kick!

In December of 2017, Assateague Alliance held a naming auction for her. I was charmed by her, and chose the obvious name, Moonshadow. She then became the focus of my trips to Assateague and my collection of photos. Following her activities and life on Assateague were eye opening to me, a retired city slicker teacher from northern Virginia. I might have been a bit partial, but she was delicate, beautiful and intelligent. I loved her more and more.

Moonshadow enjoyed the other young fillies and colts, sometimes getting too close for the mother’s comfort. She just wanted a playmate!

Time passed and Johnny’s Star left for the OSV (over sand vehicle)area where she had more privacy. She now is with Charcoal and has a young colt named Wild Wynds, who looks much like Moonshadow did at that age. For whatever reason, Moonshadow stayed behind in the developed area of the National Park. She spent some time with Corky, but was frequently alone.

Attention returned to Moonshadow this spring, when she gave birth to a cute little filly with an unusual blaze (facial marking). The presumed father is Joy, as they were currently in his band. Moonshadow was very protective of her baby, keeping her far out in the marsh in the early days of life. When stallion Phoenix tried to court her, she told him no with several strong kicks.

Spring turned into summer and Moonshadow’s baby continued to thrive — until July 5. Now Moonshadow’s baby will have to grow up fast. Let’s hope she makes it.

RIP Moonshadow. You will always have a piece of my heart.

Nancy Scarborough

Berlin

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Short-Term Rental Ban Not Appropriate In Berlin

Editor:

(The following letter was sent to members of the Berlin Mayor and Council.)

It is our understanding that the Town of Berlin is considering legislation that would remove a property owner’s ability to conduct short-term rentals in the town’s residential zoning districts. On behalf of the 1,000 members of the Coastal Association of REALTORS®, I write to ask for your reconsideration.

Among the core rights that a property owner has is the right to lease or rent their property. This right has long been recognized by the courts. For example, the Supreme Court of Connecticut has explained that the “right to rent” is one of the important “sticks” in the bundle of property rights. According to Gangemi v. Zoning Bd. Of Appeals of the Town of Fairfield, 763 A.2d 1011, 1015-16 (Conn.2011): “[It] is indisputable that the right of property owners to rent their real estate is one of the bundle of rights that, taken together, constitute the essence of ownership of property…. Owners of a single-family residence can do one of three economically productive things with the residence: (1) live in it; (2) rent it; or (3) sell it.”

This right very much applies to short-term rentals which, according to the Maryland Court of Appeals, are a residential use, not a commercial use. In 2006, the Court rejected a claim that because a restrictive covenant required that all lots in a subdivision be used for “single-family residential purposes only,” that meant short-term rentals were prohibited. The court concluded that the covenant plainly allowed residential rentals regardless of whether the rental was for a short term or a long term, explaining that the transitory or temporary nature of a short-term rental does not change the residential status of the use. As stated in Lowden v. Bosley, 909 A.2d 261, 267 (Md. 2006): “’Residential use,’ without more, has been consistently interpreted as meaning that the use of the property is for living purposes, or a dwelling, or a place of abode…. The transitory or temporary nature of such use does not defeat the residential status.”

Further, the Maryland Court of Appeals also rejected the argument that short-term rentals are not a residential use because the homeowner earns rental income by renting out his or her home, stating: “While the owner may be receiving rental income, the use of the property is unquestionably ‘residential’. The fact that the owner receives rental income is not, in any way, inconsistent with the property being used as a residence.”

Berlin may be a great place to raise a family, but it is also the recipient of Budget Travel’s “Coolest Small Town in America” designation and a destination for tourists. The dynamic of the family vacation is changing. The modern tourist is unable to take a weeklong vacation and needs affordable options. The surge in popularity of rental platforms that provide short-term options should not be disregarded by a popular tourist destination like Berlin.

Most local jurisdictions have retroactively instituted short-term rental regulations after reporting negative experiences with short-term renters. Berlin is taking a proactive approach, which should be applauded. However, an outright ban on short-term rentals in all Berlin residential neighborhoods is not the answer.

Licensing and registration requirements would enable Berlin to create and maintain a database of rentals for code enforcement and law enforcement. Inspection requirements would ensure the safety of tenants. Enforcement provisions would provide notice to a property owner that there is a problem at their rental and would provide them an opportunity to remedy it and having a local representative within 30 minutes of the property would give the town a point contact to reach out to when there is a problem at one of their properties.

In recent years, the Town of Ocean City recognized a need to enact regulations specific to the growing number of short-term rentals in its residential neighborhoods. They did consider an outright ban on short-term rentals in those neighborhoods. However, they instead chose to create a registry of rentals in their residential neighborhoods, require a local contact, address rental issues via the Property Review and Enforcement Strategies for Safe-housing (PRESS) Committee, require a separate license application for rentals in residential neighborhoods that carries a higher fee, and require a placard on the exterior of a residence that identifies the property as being a rental. Since then, according to the Ocean City Police Department, short-term rental-related complaints have decreased significantly, and Ocean City property owners maintain their right to rent their properties.

I appreciate your consideration. Please let us know if we may be of any assistance. We can provide valuable input from local professionals who work in the rental industry every day.

Joni Williamson

(The writer is the president of the Coastal Association of REALTORS®.)

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OC Recycling Needed

Editor:

I am once again asking the question “Why does Ocean City not have a community-wide recycling program?  Why does it send all its trash up to Pennsylvania to be burned?”

I volunteered for years as the state coordinator for the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup. Every year in September, thousands of earth-conscious people around the world would, for that one day, go out into the waterways of the world and collect and tally the number and type of plastic that was found on our beaches and shorelines.  Much of the collected debris could have been collected and recycled.

Visitors to Ocean City (and restaurant and bar owners) throw away all their plastic, aluminum, glass and paper products that could be recycled and re-used. The lesson in Ocean City is throw it all away, unless you want to haul all your own recyclables over to West Ocean City to the dumpsters near Walmart.

It is a shame that Ocean City does not have a community-recycling program. Every year I write to the city council members and ask them why Ocean City does not reinstitute the community pick up of recycles. Most communities have recycling programs and can make it financially viable. Why not demonstrate a care for the earth and its resources by asking visitors and locals to recycle their aluminum, glass, plastic and paper? That would be something to be proud of — Ocean City The Recycling Capital.

Geri J Schlenoff

Ocean City resident

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Golf Tourney Success

Editor:

The 15th Annual Scholarship Golf Tournament Fundraiser was held on June 14, 2021 at Eagle’s Landing Golf Course and was a huge success. All the funds raised are used to award scholarships to local students.

The Scholarship Golf Tournament Fundraiser Committee would like to thank Eagle’s Landing, all the sponsors, the volunteers and the golfers for their commitment to this worthwhile event and their dedication to assist students with financial awards.

Ocean City Elks 2645