Mayor Valli Geiger has dropped her proposal to have the city impose a moratorium on short-term rentals where the owner does not live in the building.

But the mayor will offer a cap on the number of such short-term rentals, a move that will have the same impact.

Geiger made the change after City Manager Tom Luttrell reported during the City Council's Jan. 3 meeting about the advice from the city's attorney on the proposed moratorium. The city manager said the attorney advised that a moratorium could only be put in place if the city showed there would be significant harm without the action.

The attorney, however, said a cap could be placed on the number of short-term rentals. Other cities have set such caps. Portland's cap began Jan. 1 and South Portland is looking at regulating the increase in short-term rentals in that city.

Geiger said she would propose a cap at current numbers to allow the recently created Housing Task Force to determine if short-term rentals are negatively impacting the availability of housing and if some additional regulations are in order to limit the number of non-owner-occupied short-term rentals.

The city has issued permits for 61 short-term rentals, of which 37 are non-owner-occupied. The greatest concentration of short-term rentals is in the South End. Twenty-two of the permitted locations are located south of Park Street and 14 are in the South End neighborhood bordered by Main Street to the west and Water Street to the north.

Geiger said she has heard from five residents of the South End, concerned about the increasing number of homes being converted to short-term rentals.

"They say their streets are going dark," Geiger said about the homes' no longer being occupied year-round. She said the cap would be temporary to allow the housing committee to come up with recommendations.

The City Council will consider Geiger's proposed cap at its Monday night, Jan. 8, meeting that will begin at 6 p.m.

The City Council voted Dec. 11 to create the Housing Task Force. The task force will have several sub-committees that will look at the possible re-use of the McLain School for housing, the use of upper floors of downtown buildings, regulations for tiny houses, and regulations for denser residential development in the city.

The City Council adopted an ordinance in April 2016 that regulates short-term rentals. The ordinance was largely watered down from earlier versions that included mandatory inspections. The law that was approved requires property owners to receive permits from the Code Enforcement Office.

Property owners renting an entire house, an entire duplex in which the owner does not live, or three or more units of a multi-unit building must also receive approval from the Rockland Planning Board.