ROCKLAND — Several owners of short-term rental properties criticized the proposal by Mayor Ed Glaser to prohibit the use of non-owner occupied short-term rentals as of 2025 during a Wednesday, Sept. 7 meeting of the City Council.

City Council is scheduled to consider the proposal at its Monday, Sept. 12 meeting at which time a preliminary vote could be taken.

Donald Gray said at the Sept. 7 meeting short-term rentals have been a savior for him, allowing him to pay the property taxes on his home by renting out another property on a short-term basis.

Gray said he and other property owners spent a lot of money upgrading the properties. He said the short-term rental properties are in immaculate condition compared to some of the long-term rentals. He said he has nightmares with long-term renting but not with the people who rent short-term. The landlord said banning non-owner occupied short-term rentals would not change the problem of a lack of affordable housing for residents.

“What’s the deal? It brings money in, it brings people in,” he said. “There’s an affordability crisis but it’s not because of short-term rentals. It’s economics and it’s how beautiful the area is and people want to live here. It’s crazy to limit them.”

He said it would also be a nightmare to enforce such a prohibition.

Annie Higbee, who owns two short-term rentals in Rockland, said she has never had any complaints about her properties and the neighbors are fine with their use. She said short-term rentals bring people to the community who are involved in the community while here.

Higbee said she rents to working people who come here to visit. She pointed out some of the employees of the Camden International Film Festival are guests in her properties. She has also rented to crew members aboard some of the local boats.

She questioned why the proposed prohibition was being pushed so quickly.

Higbee also questioned the definition of non-owner occupied. She pointed out she lives in Owls Head, eight minutes away from her properties.

Aly Motta said her family owns four properties on the Samoset Road, uses two for personal use and rents short-term the other two. The family also purchased a fifth home on the street. Motta said when they purchased the homes, they were in states of disrepair and they have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to upgrade them. The family plans on spending up to a million dollars on the most recent purchase.

Motta said these homes would not help the crisis of a lack of affordable housing since they are oceanfront properties. In the winter, the two are rented out to people such as visiting nurses.

The family pays nearly $70,000 annually in property taxes, she said.

The short-term rentals provide her a job as a property manager, she noted.

If the city considers a ban on non-owner occupied short term rentals, the city should consider grandfathering the owners who are currently renting, Motta said.

Sharon Bry also voiced opposition to the ban.

Under the mayor’s proposed ordinance change, owner-occupied short-term rentals would continue to be allowed and non-owner occupied ones will still be allowed in transitional business and commercial zones, including downtown. The rentals could also be in rural residential zones which are located on part of Old County Road and west.

Glaser said people who operate a short-term rental but do not live there are running a business and businesses should not be in residential zones.

“Add to that it takes away some of our housing stock,” Glaser said.

If approved, the prohibition would take effect Jan. 1, 2025.

Councilor Nicole Kalloch said at the Sept. 7 meeting she was shocked by the proposed ban.

“I definitely feel this is an overreach,” Kalloch said, adding that short-term rentals provide work for local contractors and property managers.

Kalloch said she received 16 telephone calls that day from people who are lawyering up in response to the city’s possible action.

Councilor Louise MacLellan-Ruf said ordinances should be vetted first before being proposed to see if there is interest by the Council.

Councilor Sarah Austin said she has heard from people on both sides of the issue.

The ordinance change also would eliminate the requirement that non-owner occupied short-term rental applications need to go before the Planning Board. Instead, the code enforcement officer could issue the permits.

The Rockland City Council gave final approval 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 41 non-owner occupied homes approved for short-term rentals. There are about 20 people on a waiting list, seeking to get one of the remaining four slots. There is no cap on short-term rentals if the owner lives on the property.

Glaser said his ordinance would lift the cap on non-owner occupied but they would have to be limited to the business and commercial zones.

The mayor said he hopes the ordinance change can be adopted before he leaves office. His final meeting on the City Council will be Nov. 14.

Annie Higbee spoke out against a proposed ban on non-owner occupied short term rentals.