Rockland to mull moratorium on some short-term rentals

By Stephen Betts | Jan 01, 2018

Rockland — The Rockland City Council will consider whether to impose a moratorium on short-term rentals in homes not occupied by the property owners.

The proposed ordinance is still being drafted, according to Mayor Valli Geiger, but would impose a 180-day moratorium, which could be extended for an additional 180 days.

This temporary halt would 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 for limiting the number of non-owner occupied short-term rentals," Geiger said.

The council will discuss the proposal at its agenda-setting meeting scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 3, at City Hall. A preliminary vote on the moratorium would then be taken at the Monday, Jan. 8, meeting. If approved, a formal public hearing and final vote would be held in February.

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 more dense residential development in the city.

The city has issued permits for 61 short-term rentals. Thirty-seven of those permitted properties are not owner-occupied residences.

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.

The Code Office initially sent out letters in the fall of 2016 to the owners of 71 properties that had advertised short-term rentals on online sites.

A review of the existing 61 permits shows that the greatest concentration is in the South End of Rockland. 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, when the council debated short-term rental regulations in 2016, there was a promise that requiring permits would be the first step and the second step would be to look at whether limits were needed.

During the 15 months in which city officials debated the municipal ordinance, the concern was that an increase in whole houses or multiple units in an apartment building being rented short-term would reduce the amount of long-term rentals available for the local workforce.

Lack of affordable housing has repeatedly been cited by municipal leaders as one of the most pressing issues in the community.

There was also concern that having a larger share of the housing stock in a neighborhood used by people staying a few days at a time would harm the fabric of the community.

Comments (8)
Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Jan 03, 2018 09:47

"Maine's larger cities are already doing this because they are finding there is a big lack in affordable housing. Thankful that we have a council with foresight instead of hindsight. Great opportunity with anyone with ideas to join the housing task force and bring them forward."

Posted by: Dale Hayward | Jan 03, 2018 01:39

The opportunity to make money lies everywhere there is an opportunity. For this city or any other city to stick their nose into someone's personal business is irresponsible, and smells of our tree huggers attitude. If, for one minute, anyone thinks that a home should only be owned and used by a "permanent resident" is not keeping up with the times. We are a moving society that does not plant themselves like our forefathers did. For this city to impose restrictions on someone's use of their property smells of nimbys. What difference does it make to me if someone moves into the house next door every two weeks, three weeks, a month or whatever? If the homeowners pays their taxes and maintains their property according to the obnoxious codes for length of their grass, number of lawnmowers and parking in the set back leave them alone. Get on with important things like teaching the Mayor how to abide by city ordinances and maintain the will of the council as directed and stop going around finding nit-picking trees to hug. Mr. Ecker is correct on this one and I join him. How in the world is getting people to rent long term going to make affordable houses? Is that a lesson in economics 101 or is it the new economic culture that has been brought here from away where if it worked there, leave it there. It will not work here. How many of those houses have been foreclosed on by the owners who rent short term vs. how many have been foreclosed on because the owners can not maintain the long term, forever ownership because of our high taxes. As for free enterprise stifleing a neighborhood, bull puckey. Those home owners are probably forced to maintain the properties better for the sake of being able to make them attractive to rent. That is the win win. If you want your neighbors to be around for 30, 40, 50 years, you pay their taxes, you maintain their property, and you can choose your neighbors. Get over it and get on with living and let live. Nothing more than someone with nothing better to do. As for a neighborhood being for people that live there, and not tourists. Those tourists probably spend more money here in the time they are here than the locals do. As for sightseeing: we are a tourists destination, ask the art stores on Main Street. Who buys their art? Do you think the local people do? Or, do you think the tourists do? And as for drug dealers. Worthless comment. We have a $2 MILLION DOLLAR police department, just call them and they will take care of them. Is there a real distinction between local drug dealers and drug dealers from away? You make it sound as though all of these rental folks are drug dealers. How unfair. We are not moving forward by intruding on private enterprise, legal, and paying taxes. We are stepping into do do with this project. I would show up at the city council with fire in my eyes but, then again, their minds are already made up to intrude in as many ways as possible, on as many people as possible and to dance around the mulberry bush singing high praises for themselves as being visionaries. Big mistake, I hope you get my point. Beside, nobody would listen. Why doesn't the city of Rockland support our school staff and teachers and pass a resolution to support them and ask for the school board to move the impass along. The city is very generous to pass out raises and benefits maybe they could show some support instead of beating our taxpayers to death worrying about signs, and all that stuff. I am still waiting for the ski area at the Landfill to open for the winter, Mount Demo is getting higher and higher and more ugly and more ugly. Man what a blunder, oh well. Go after the rentals and see where it gets us.

Posted by: Kendall Merriam | Jan 01, 2018 19:40

"Free enterprise belongs in business zones - not in residential neighborhoods." Really? In that case, are city code enforcers and the city council going to shut down/regulate the businesses that already exist in the South End such as Jess's Seafood, Maritime Farms, South End Grocery, Wiggins, all of which provide convenient food sources to local residents and others? The city council members do not live in the South End, so who are the complainants? The housing shortages in Rockland, and elsewhere around the country, and the globe, are due to the huge, and growing income disparities. Non-residents buying up homes for rental purposes have the $. Income disparity is the problem and lack of affordable housing is one result. The city admin./city council are trying to fight the elephant in the room by attacking the mice...

Posted by: Barry Douglas Morse | Jan 01, 2018 17:44

Is it true that someone who rents to a high-rent, short-term tenant will be willing to rent long-term for less money?   If that were true, there would already be organic growth in the supply of lower priced rentals even without a new ordinance.

On the other hand, the goal of maintaining the residential character of residential neighborhoods is a good one.

Posted by: Amy Files | Jan 01, 2018 15:23

Whether or not Council decides to enact a moratorium -- this is an important "second step" and follow-through of the proposed process over a year ago when the City decided to start registering short-term rentals so that they could track and understand their impact on neighborhood.

"Free enterprise" belongs in business zones -- not in residential neighborhoods. I hope that Council will find a way to allow residents who live here to have the opportunity to rent out a room or occasionally their home, in order to help with their mortgages and property taxes -- but to seriously limit the amount of homes that have been snatched up by outside developers. The amount of homes that have been converted from year-round apartments, to short-term rentals means our local residents and workers are not able to find year-round housing. This hurts the ability for families to live here and for our businesses to find workers. The amount of short-term rentals that have popped up in the South End will permanently alter that neighborhood so that neighbors no longer have neighbors  -- just fly-by tourists -- and it becomes home to only summer people, like in Bar Harbor. Pushing out year-round residents and replacing them with tourists also hurts our year-round businesses and ability for them to provide year-round jobs. The problem is much larger than someone being able to rent out their property.

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Jan 01, 2018 07:16

When free enterprise invades neighborhoods it should be stifled. A residential neighborhood should be for people that live there not tourists, sightseeing or drug dealers. Unless one lives here daily and sees some of these short renters then they really only have an undereducated opinion.

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Jan 01, 2018 05:01

Maine's larger cities are already doing this because they are finding there is a big lack in affordable housing. Thankful that we have a council with foresight instead of hindsight. Great opportunity with anyone with ideas to join the housing task force and bring them forward.

Posted by: Edwin E Ecker | Jan 01, 2018 03:34

Rockland doing what it does best ,stifling free enterprise and catering to the few that control the purse strings.

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