No moratorium, but cap to have same impact on Rockland short-term rentals

By Stephen Betts | Jan 04, 2018
Photo by: Stephen Betts

Rockland — 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.

Comments (11)
Posted by: Gerald A Weinand | Jan 06, 2018 22:26

Just a hunch Kendall, but my guess is that you would oppose spending any City money on a study of the impact of short-term rentals. Funny how that works.

We rent our house for four or five weekends every year. We have a City permit. I have advocated for a maximum number of days for short-term rentals (20 days or maybe 4 or 5 individual rentals) to the City Council. A reasonable number can be reached. I do not want my neighbors to rent their house for the entire summer to 20 different groups, nor do I suspect they want us to do the same.

Homeowners renting their houses short-term has NO impact on long-term rental housing.

Posted by: Kendall Merriam | Jan 06, 2018 19:30

City council does not provide research-backed data to support their stance of remote, imaginary threats from short-term rentals. Change inevitably looks like a threat but does not necessarily turn out to be threatening. Who speaks for the community as a whole on this and other topics impacting residents? This question needs to be addressed by the city council in all their work by providing a welcoming environment for citizen participation. in a variety of forums.

Posted by: Nina Reed | Jan 06, 2018 12:11

dale, was only joking. i agree with most of what you say. patricia williaams

Posted by: Dale Hayward | Jan 06, 2018 11:48

Patricia: Rose colored glasses make things make believe, you can wear them if you like. A clear vision is my thing.

Posted by: Nina Reed | Jan 06, 2018 02:19

dale, you need some rose colored glasses like richard. patricia williams

Posted by: Dale Hayward | Jan 05, 2018 15:55

Richard: Please detail the comments: willing to step forward and move ahead. Please explain the decision that was made that needed a legal team and how much do you think that legal time costs at about $300 per hour I am guessing? Please explain what you are so happy about, please and thank you.

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Jan 05, 2018 12:56

Glad to see a proactive council that is willing to step forward and move ahead.  A decision needed to be made and they are making it after consulting with their legal team.

Posted by: Dale Hayward | Jan 05, 2018 12:00

It is amazing how our city council (Geiger) feels so pressured from someone to get this thing enacted so that our nimbys can have their way. The pressure comes from council member who is driven to make changes period. We do not need any more changes. We need to concentrate of positive encouragement for people from away to come here. As I have stated before I am willing to bet these properties that are rented are kept better, pay their taxes, attract people here who are apt to spend more money than the locals in the same period of time, and go away, we hope, with positive feedback so that they can spread the word about coming to Rockland, not having to stay in a high priced hotel for a week or two, have their privacy, can cook their meals if chosen and be assured the freedom, at their leisure, to enjoy the area. They most likely make day trips and certainly do more for our economy than people even assume. The action by the council, as I assume Geiger as the blessing of the full council in a resolve or whatever it takes to push this issue. Don't we have enough to worry about with all the gigantic political signs upsetting the nimbys, or that tall grass that is ok at the police station but not on private property. (a lawsuit settled that one for the sake of "art") And, I noticed that the city had to pay an attorney for an opinion on this issue of a moratorium. Sometimes it takes less than 5 residents to spark the city council into the feverish action to quell the feathers of their constituents. One anonymous complaint can turn this city upside down with selective enforcement, beyond even authority. I have known even city department heads like to squeal on the residents to other city department heads in an effort to cover their selective enforcement. This city needs to get their collective heads together and stop going around on these issues individually, inappropriately, and cover their bases by interviewing all folks concerned with issues and not just listen to a few when others are impacted. The worst way to impact our city is to divide our citizens with willy-nilly rules, regulations and more ordinances when we can't even fairly enforce what we have. The motivation for the cap is wrong and it will stifle investments and  upkeep in properties, and discourage those folks from away that want to come here, spend time, and money. Everyone knows our taxes are getting to the point that many have to supplement their income to keep their homes. A cap will not allow people, in the future, from using this rental situation to help them keep their homes. Ken were you interviewed on this subject, your comments have always been positive on the experiences you have had with the rentals in your area? Perhaps a letter to the city, as some councilors do not apparently read these comments, might help, only suggesting.

Posted by: Ian Emmott | Jan 05, 2018 09:26

Kendall I’m sure pressure comes from big hospitality in town if not primarily from that sector.

Posted by: Kendall Merriam | Jan 04, 2018 12:39

There are many more than five residents in the South End. So, five complainants drive city council policy?

Posted by: David E Myslabodski | Jan 04, 2018 10:24

A moratorium is only a temp measure while a cap is permanent. Time will tell . . .

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