ROCKLAND — The Rockland Planning Board will hear a review next week of a proposal to convert a single-family home into another short-term rental.

The review will be the first of several to be heard by the Planning Board even as the community faces a worsening shortage of affordable housing for local workers.

The Rockland City Council gave final approval in February 2018 to imposing a “temporary” cap of 45 on non-owner-occupied short-term rentals.

The vote was 3-2, which reflected the sentiments of speakers from the public, 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 set a cap of 45 and Councilors said they would regularly review the cap. While the Council did appoint a committee to look at short-term rentals in March 2018, there have been no regular reviews of the cap or whether a cap is needed or changes made to the limit.

There are currently 38 non-owner occupied homes that are approved for being short-term rentals. There are 26 people on a waiting list, seeking to get one of the remaining seven slots. There is no cap on short-term rentals if the owner lives on the property.

When properties that have approval for short-term rentals are sold, the approval goes away and is not transferred to the new owners. The new owners, if they wish to use the property as a short-term rental, must go to the back of the waiting list.

The code office is forwarding people on the waiting list to the Planning Board. The Board is scheduled to meet Tuesday, June 7 to hear a proposal for the next person in line — the owner of 10 Otis St.

Daria Peck, the owner of the Otis Street property, said she has been doing long rentals at that location for about 25 years and has been been doing Airbnb at another location for six years. Peck said the quality of tenants in short-term rentals are far superior to the long-term rental people she has had over the years.

“Short-term rental people pay before they rent your property and they are responsible and respectful of your property. I can’t say the same for some of the (long-term) tenants I have had in the past,” Peck said.

She said she has had a wonderful tenant on Otis Street for the last two years, but when that tenant leaves, Peck will most likely change that to a short-term rental.

“I am getting older and less maintenance with a shortterm rental is appealing,” she said.

During the 2018 debate, then Councilor Ackor 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. Ackor later served as code enforcement officer for Rockland and then returned to a private contracting business.

Ackor said June 2 that his views have not changed over the past four years.

“In my limited experience as a general contractor dealing with owners of STRs…I have found the owners generally keep their properties in good condition, they employ local contractors, landscapers, trades people, and they are much more responsive to complaints if any arise,” Ackor said.

He said the city quota for non-owner occupied short-term rental units is arbitrary.

“I believe it presents a problem when some people are allowed to earn a substantial amount of additional income for a property which may be identical to that of their neighbor, and is assessed the same as the neighbor as well. The quota creates a disparity. So I would support either banning them outright or getting rid of the limits,” Ackor said.

He agreed the housing shortage is a problem but said he hasn’t seen empirical evidence that short-term rentals are the cause of rising prices and reduced inventory.

“I am skeptical that eliminating STRS would result in a reduction in median home prices nor do I believe the number of available units would increase,” Ackor said June 2. “At the very least, I would prefer the city open enrollment for one year, license every property interested in following the law and obtaining a city license, and then collect the data to see what the impact really is. I would support additional code and life safety requirements for STRS and I believe they should be considered a business, taxable as such.”

“I also believe that local people who may not have the means to invest in the stock market, may end up acquiring a family property, or may be able to purchase a second home, and should be able to earn revenue from the property in sufficient amount to cover their tax burden and make repairs or alterations as they chose. STR’s present an opportunity for locals to earn a higher amount of revenue,” he said.

An email was sent out Thursday morning June 2 to Councilors asking their views on short-term rentals.

Councilor Sarah Austin said June 3 “Seeing the increasing housing crisis (here and state-and nationwide, I cannot avoid the fact that using a home for short-term rentals prevents the possibility that it could be used as year-round rental or ownership housing. As such, I would not support increasing the cap for non-owner occupied STRs. I am working on developing some additional ordinance proposals based on the report of the Short Term Rental Committee, and will bring those to council in July. ”

Councilor Nate Davis said June 2 he does not support allowing non-owner occupied short-term rentals, and he would prefer to phase them out.

There has been no response from other councilors.

The City Council voted in November 2018 to create the short-term rental committee and appointed members the following month. The Committee issued a report in March 2020, immediately before the COVID-19 pandemic put a brake on many meetings. The panel gave the same report in December 2021.

The recommendations included inspections of the units. And, non-owner occupied rentals should be limited to no shorter than five nights, according to the recommendations.