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Short-term rental panel voices support for cap

By Stephen Betts | Nov 21, 2019
Photo by: Stephen Betts Fletcher Smith, left, speaks as Kathryn Fogg Hill listens during a Nov. 20 meeting of the Rockland Short-Term Rental Taskforce and Study Committee.

Rockland — A year after the City Council created a committee to study the controversial issue of short-term rentals, the panel has yet to come up with recommendations.

The volunteer committee members have reached a consensus that a cap on the number of non-owner occupied short-term rentals should stay in place. The number of that cap, however, has not been agreed to by the members.

The committee held its latest meeting Wednesday night, Nov. 20.

The committee has not developed recommendations for the City Council nor set a deadline for submitting recommendations.

Councilor Ed Glaser said after the meeting that there was still a lot more work to reach a consensus proposal. He said a committee-led public hearing will be held at some point before the recommendations are made.

This comes as 19 people remain on a waiting list to rent out their homes for short-term rentals. The 19 are people who do not live at those residences.

The Rockland City Council set a cap in February 2018 of 45 for non-owner occupied short-term rentals.

Committee Chair Callie Black said on Oct. 28 that the issue "turned out to be more complicated than we ever thought."

The Council created the Committee on Nov. 14 and began appointing members in December.

At the Committee's Nov. 20 meeting, nearly all the members voiced support for a cap although no agreement was reached on how many.

Many of the members also said they would support requiring inspections of the non-owner occupied short-term rentals.

Committee member Fletcher Smith said inspections would not only make the community safer but promote Rockland to visitors as a safe community. She raised the possibility of hiring an outside company that could conduct the inspections to avoid adding more work to the city's fire department or code enforcement office.

She pointed out there is a company that does such inspection for $150 per year per property. The company also is paid $5,000 a year by the community for undertaking these inspections rather than being done by the city.

Committee member Kathryn Fogg Hill pointed out owners of short-term rentals already pay $100 a year for a permit from the city. She said long-term rentals were more in need of required inspections than short-term rentals.

Board member Jonathan Frost said $150 a year is peanuts compared to the income that property owners receive.

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Comments (7)
Posted by: George Terrien | Jan 06, 2020 17:58

Amy, I agree completely.  Well put!

Posted by: Amy Files | Jan 06, 2020 14:52

It's encouraging to hear that this committee supports a cap. However, if the City Council -- and residents -- are serious about ensuring that there is affordable housing for the people who work and live here, it's time bar short-term rentals to non-owner occupied owners. Allowing our housing to be bought up for this purpose (an occurrence that has increased greatly over the last 5 years) results in 1) a loss of year-round rentals units; 2) rental costs being inflated by the short-term rental market; 3) cost of homes inflated by the potential profit for renting them out short-term— so that people who live/work here can not afford to purchase a home; 4) a loss of neighborhood fabric, community, and imbalance towards seasonal neighborhoods that go dark in the winter. When this topic was first discussed, I supported a cap -- but having seen how serious this issue is, how quickly the cost of housing has risen over the past 2–3 years, I feel it would be irresponsible to continue to allow this practice. Regular people who want to *live* in a home here can not compete with the costs of purchasing when the prices are being driven by the profits that can be made by operating that home as a business. The comprehensive plan is pretty clear in that it states in multiple places that our residential neighborhoods need to be protected. We are not protecting residential neighborhoods by allowing them to be purchased only to be rented out as hotels/bnbs/etc. I fully support allowing people who live in their homes to rent out a room, rooms or units to help them afford to live here and pay for their taxes and mortgages -- but if Council is serious about staving off the housing and affordability crisis that we are facing -- it's time to save the limited amount of housing that we have available from being purchased purely for business investment by non-residents.

Posted by: James Clinton Leach | Nov 25, 2019 06:26

I venture to say all or most of the 19 on the waiting list plan on retiring to Rockland in 2 to 5 years, in the interim there trying to pay the mortgage, taxes and other City services...limiting the permits to 45 is sending a message to not buy in Rockland I think there are plenty of other reasons not to purchase and reside here, this cap is over baring and it’s none of our business if the owners want to rent weekly...

Steve Carroll said it in so many words,  most of the weekly rentals are in tip top condition, lawns mowed, flower gardens and no peeling paint...

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Nov 22, 2019 08:17

For many of us facing the changes of an ever evolving world can be difficult.  I know growing up in Rockland watching it change from a tough fishing village to a cultural arts center has been eye opening.  The stark realization is wealthy people from away are attracted to our place and they are coming like it or not.  We can slow the change or deal with it.  We will not be able to stop it and maybe we shouldn't try.  Rockland will change and soon many of us will be living in warren.  That's just the way it is, out with the old and in with the new.  We can cry about it or kick our heals, but we will not alter the evolution.  Let's welcome these new people not build a wall to keep them out.  It won't work, just ask Trump.

Posted by: Debra Damon | Nov 22, 2019 07:12

I think the houses or old apartment buildings being bought up whether by folks from Out of State or in Maine, they are fixing these places up to make a neighborhood look beautiful again. It's a way to get people to come to our state or town, to spend money. Doesn't both the State and Town get something back from the Short Term Rentals via a fee to be Air BNB or Sales Tax that is collected. The new Air BNB's give jobs to local contractors, buy supplies for local stores to fix these places up, hire property managers to watch these places and hire cleaners to clean them. I mean it sounds like a Win Win situation.

I have not followed this story closely but can I ask why they are limiting how many licenses they issue and why the cap? 
Another idea for the committee would be to try and have some of the neighbors around these Air BNB's to be on the committee, to see how it effects them or their neighborhood.

Posted by: Barry Douglas Morse | Nov 21, 2019 12:35

Stephen K., I have no financial interest in Rockland and do not reside there, but I think we have both heard others raise issues important to Rockland. One is that a short-term, non-owner-occupied property has commercial value, which may raise the resale price of that home beyond the reach of someone who might have otherwise considered buying for full-time, private, residential occupancy. Likewise, all other residential properties become potential income properties, and may be sold to out-of-state bidders, thereby diminishing the local availability of affordable homes. Even mini and micro homes could become unaffordable for first-time homeowners. How much local housing can Rockland afford to give up?

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Nov 21, 2019 09:30


the Positive aspect of any committee is that it allows public input on a city issue.  It also allows the council to deflect the blame if something goes wrong (as with the City Manager selection committee ) and many others.  However a committee by nature is a group of 5 or more people with different ideas that can never agree on anything.  More that anything, committees need an end date.  Fletcher is in Real Estate she knows AIRBNB and HomeAway rely heavily on reviews so you rarely have any issues with "the faucet doesn't work" or "the refrigerator isn't cold enough".  These non-owner occupied properties all have managers like Fletcher that police these units well.  These properties are generally in better shape than many Rockland owner-occupied homes.  So why are we making an issue of a problem that doesn't exist.  Well it's true meetings are fun and a social outing.  It also gives members an opportunity to talk about what they will do at next years meeting.


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