A divided Rockland City Council gave final approval Monday night, Feb. 12, to imposing a temporary cap on non-owner-occupied short-term rentals.

The vote was 3-2, which reflected the sentiments of speakers, who also were divided on the cap. Mayor Valli Geiger and Councilors Ed Glaser and Amelia Magjik voted for the cap, while Councilors Adam Ackor and Lisa Westkaemper voted against the measure.

The ordinance that was given final approval sets the maximum number of non-owner-occupied short-term rentals at 45. There are currently 33 that have either been approved or applications submitted.

Geiger said after the vote that she expected the cap would be in place for a year to allow the city time to review the overall short-term rental regulations and look to see if it can be amended to set limits by neighborhood.

Glaser said this was only a pause and not an indefinite limit.

Non-owner-occupied short-term rental owners have until April 15 this year to file for their annual renewals. New applications will be accepted after that time until the cap of 45 is reached.

In subsequent years, the deadline to file for annual renewals will be March 15. New applications will be accepted after March 15.

Cheryl Michaelsen, owner of the Berry Manor Inn, urged councilors to support the cap. She said to do nothing could lead to irrevocable harm.

"Protect our neighborhoods, protect our community," she said.

Supporters of the cap said the increase in short-term rentals was taking away residences for long-term renters and those seeking to buy homes. Geiger said some neighborhoods were going dark in the winter because of the number of seasonal short-term rentals.

Westkaemper said the cap was more a line in the sand than a thoughtful approach.

"Rockland is a big festival community. We encourage people to come here. They need a place to stay," Westkaemper said.

She said a cap might be necessary, but it should be done in a comprehensive way.

Ackor said he was strongly opposed to the cap.

He said owners of short-term rentals spend a lot of money to restore homes and employ local contractors and property managers. He said these homes are also well maintained. The cap was arbitrary, he said.

Fletcher Smith, owner of vacation rental business SummerMaine, said the cap was arbitrary and would not make a dent on the affordable housing front. She said many people buy homes and rent them out on a short-term basis so they can eventually afford to move to Rockland and live in the properties.

Michael Mullins, who rents the house adjacent to the quarry on Cedar Street, said the cap would discourage investment in Rockland housing.

In other action Monday night, the council voted 3-2 (Ackor, Westkaemper opposed) to give initial approval to imposing a $5,000 fine on the owners of non-owner-occupied properties that are rented out on a short-term basis without a permit.