Ocean Pines Officials Talk Short-Term Rental Referendum

OCEAN PINES – The process for bringing a vote on short-term rental regulations to the community’s residents highlighted a recent board discussion.

Now that the Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors has voted to adopt Worcester County’s code on short-term rentals, litter and noise into its Declaration of Restrictions, Director Frank Daly said it must now be decided how the association will bring the vote to its residents.

“We passed a motion to change the Declaration of Restrictions and the voting for that was targeted to start for that in the fourth quarter,” he said. “Now we are in the fourth quarter, and I think we need a discussion on how to move that process forward.”

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.

Ultimately, officials in Ocean Pines opted to incorporate the county’s short-term rental regulations into its Declaration of Restrictions (DRs) with enhanced enforcement provisions, such as fines for property owners who violate the code. To that end, each section of the community will now be given the opportunity to vote for or against the adoption of such regulations into its DRs.

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“The other thing I’d also point out is there are five sections where this vote is not required,” Daly said, “as the Declaration of Restrictions already gives the board powers we are asking for to regulate short-term rentals.”

During the Nov. 20 board meeting, Daly said Ocean Pines attorneys had outlined a process of working with the association’s Elections Committee on an initial mailing.

“And then the way this process works is there can be subsequent mailings until we achieve the 50% plus one that’s required in the bylaws to change the DRs,” he said. “It seems to me we can have an initial mailing in the fourth quarter …”

Daly added additional mailings could also be sent with assessments, or as a bounce-back card in the Ocean Pines Report.

“I believe it is also possible the Elections Committee could look at ads in the local press, and I think that we could also consider for the Elections Committee – or I would like the Elections Committee to consider – emailing homeowners where we know the homeowner’s email …,” he said. “All of that has a tendency to suppress the cost that we have … to get the votes in each section.”

When asked about the number of votes each section would need, Daly said it would require the vote of a majority of homeowners.

“For example, if there are 10 people in your section and five of them vote for it and five don’t vote, then you send out another mailing,” he explained. “And in that second mailing, if one person votes for it, you have the 50% plus one … That ends that section, it’s done, it’s incorporated in that section.”

Director Colette Horn noted the association’s Strategic Planning Advisory Committee had used an online platform to conduct its recent homeowners survey. She questioned if it could also be used in the adoption process for short-term rental regulations.

“The Strategic Planning Advisory Committee survey was primarily done electronically, and we got over 1,800 responses, which is a phenomenal response rate for any survey,” she said. “I think we ought to consider electronic as well.”

President Larry Perrone, however, shared his concerns.

“I think the concern is this is not a survey, it’s an actual vote …,” he replied. “I think we have two issues here: the communication to the community, to let them know what this is all about and explain it, and I do think the Elections Committee has to be involved in the actual vote here, and I’m not sure if we have the capability at this point to vote electronically.”

Following the discussion, Perrone appointed a board work group, consisting of himself, Daly and Director Josette Wheatley, to consider the voting process.

“I think we should come up with a plan as to how we’re going to do this in conjunction with the Communications and the Elections committees, and then come back to the board with a plan as to how to implement,” he said.

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.