To our readers,

The COVID-19 pandemic is a once-in-a-century type story, ... Click here to continue

Rockport petition seeks short-term rental regs on June ballot

By Daniel Dunkle | Feb 19, 2021

Rockport — A new non-binding petition has been circulated in Rockport aimed at urging the Select Board to put the short-term rental ordinance on the ballot this year.

“We, the undersigned residents of Rockport, request that the select board place the ordinance regarding short term rentals on the June ballot thereby giving all town residents a chance to vote on the matter,” the petition states.

The authors of the petition have not been revealed to The Camden Herald and it has been noted that some in town do not want to put their names on the petition for fear of angering their neighbors over the controversial issue.

The petition was turned in to the town office Friday. The goal was to be in time for the Monday night Select Board meeting (which is available to watch online starting at 5:30 p.m. Visit rockportmaine.gov/events).

The Rockport Select Board voted 4-1 to table the much-debated short-term rental ordinance Feb. 8, noting that the issue had become heated in the town and prompted personal attacks on those who have supported regulating rentals.

Board member Denise Munger made the motion to table the proposed ordinance, which would have required rental owners to register with the town, adhere to safety regulations and pay a fee each year. Board Chair Debra Hall seconded the motion. Munger said she intended the motion to mean the issue would not be on the June ballot.

Jeffrey Hamilton opposed the motion. He argued that while the town has received a great deal of negative feedback from those who oppose rental regulations, that came from less than 1 percent of the voters. He said others, who support the proposed short-term rental ordinance might not make comments out of fear of personal attacks.

He said there is a concern about losing long-term housing to vacation rentals creating a revolving door of neighbors.

He argued the residents need to vote on this rather than having a small number of individuals with personal agendas driving the discussion.

Mark Kelley and Michelle Hannan on the board have opposed the rental ordinance. They argued there were other more important priorities to deal with right now. Other important issues coming up include the future of the RES property and the town budget (which Hall also noted needed to receive more attention than the STR ordinance).

Hall said in a statement, “...Unfortunately, the residents who have supported regulation have largely been silent through the process. While some have stepped forward publicly, most have not. They should not be criticized for opting not to enter the public fray, particularly since a small minority of residents have targeted anyone who supports regulation for personal attacks and rhetoric that is unbefitting civil discourse.”

“...For those who criticize us for not listening — please hear loud and clear that we are listening. We've been listening all along. As elected officials we want to hear from all residents — not just the loudest voices. That was the purpose for putting this proposed ordinance on the ballot — to give all residents the opportunity to express their view. But at this juncture the rhetoric is too heated for reasonable debate so as responsible board members I support the view that it is time to cool down the temperature by tabling the issue.”

Other local municipalities including Rockland have enacted ordinances to regulate short-term rentals. The issue has been a source of debate in many parts of the state, particularly in coastal communities.

Concerns raised in Rockland included that while bed-and-breakfast operations, hotels and inns are highly regulated, short-term rentals (often referred to as Airbnbs) were not subject to the same regulations. Such regulations include safety requirements. It has seemed part of the issue has been legislation failing to catch up with the swift changes brought on by new technology. The Airbnb market has been internet-driven.

Others worry about a long-term change in the character of local communities. There is concern that there will be a shift from people raising their families in coastal neighborhoods to having residential areas dominated by people just visiting for the weekend.

The lucrative nature of short-term rentals could also diminish the amount of available long-term rentals. Affordable housing for local workers is already in demand.

Residents who oppose short-term rental regulation note that the coast of Maine has a long tradition of such rentals and vacation cottages. It has become a means for many to afford their property taxes and the expenses of maintaining high-end homes in this market. Others argue for property rights, feeling that this is an example of governments interfering with personal freedoms.

If you appreciated reading this news story and want to support local journalism, consider subscribing today.
Call (207) 594-4401 or join online at knox.villagesoup.com/join.
Donate directly to keeping quality journalism alive at knox.villagesoup.com/donate.
Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.
Note: If you signed up using our new subscriber portal, your username is the email address you registered with and your password is in all caps