As requests for short-term rentals continue, city considers future actions – Knox County VillageSoup

ROCKLAND — The Rockland Planning Board will next week hear a review of a proposal to convert a single-family home into another short-term rental.

The review will be the first of several to be heard by the Planning Board even as the community faces a growing shortage of affordable housing for local workers.

Rockland City Council gave final approval in February 2018 to impose a “temporary” cap of 45 on non-owner occupied short-term rentals.

The vote was 3 to 2, reflecting the feelings of the audience speakers, who were evenly 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 order set a cap of 45 and councilors said they would review the cap regularly. Although Council appointed a committee to review short-term rentals in March 2018, there has been no regular review of the cap or the need for a cap or changes to the limit.

There are currently 38 non-owner occupied homes that are approved for short-term rentals. There are 26 people on a waiting list, seeking one of the remaining seven slots. There is no cap on short-term rentals if the owner lives on the property.

When properties that have approval for short-term rental are sold, the approval disappears and is not transferred to the new owners. New owners, if they wish to use the property for short-term rental, must come to the end of the waiting list.

The code office forwards people on the waiting list to the Town Planning Council. Council is due to meet on Tuesday, June 7 to hear a proposal for the next person in line – the owner of 10 Otis St.

Daria Peck, the owner of the Otis Street property, said she has been doing long rentals at this location for about 25 years and Airbnb at another location for six years. Peck said the quality of tenants in short-term rentals is far superior to the long-term tenants she’s had over the years.

“Short term tenants pay before they rent your property and they are responsible and respectful of your property. I can’t say the same for some of the (long-term) tenants I’ve had in the past,” Peck said.

She said she’s had a wonderful tenant on Otis Street for the past two years, but when that tenant leaves, Peck will most likely change that to a short-term rental.

“I’m getting older and less maintenance with a shortterm renting is attractive,” she said.

At the 2018 debate, then Councilor Ackor said owners of short-term rentals were spending a lot of money restoring homes and employing local contractors and property managers. He said these houses are also well maintained. The cap was arbitrary, he said. Ackor then served as a code enforcement officer for Rockland, then returned to a private contracting business.

Ackor said on June 2 that his views have not changed in the past four years.

“In my limited experience as a general contractor dealing with STR owners…I have found that owners generally keep their properties in good condition, they employ local contractors, landscapers, trades people, and they are much more responsive to complaints if any,” Ackor said.

He said the city’s quota for short-term rental units occupied by non-owners is arbitrary.

“I think it’s a problem when some people are allowed to earn substantial extra income for a property that may be the same as their neighbor’s and is also assessed the same as the neighbour’s. The quota creates a disparity. So I would support either outright banning them or removing the limits,” Ackor said.

He agreed that housing shortages are a problem, but said he hadn’t seen empirical evidence that short-term rentals are the cause of rising prices and shrinking inventory.

“I’m skeptical that eliminating STRS would lead to lower median home prices, nor do I believe the number of available units would increase,” Ackor said June 2. , allow each interested property to comply with the law and obtain a municipal license, then collect the data to see what the real impact is. I would support additional code and life safety requirements for the STRS and believe they should be considered a business, taxable as such.

“I also think that locals who may not have the means to invest in the stock market, may end up acquiring homesteads, or be able to buy a second home, and should be able to earn income from property in sufficient amount to cover their tax burden and make repairs or alterations as they see fit. STR presents an opportunity for residents to earn a higher amount of income,” he said.

An email was sent on Thursday morning June 2 to advisors asking for their opinion on short-term rentals.

Councilor Sarah Austin said on June 3: “Seeing the growing housing crisis (here in the state and across the country, I cannot avoid the fact that using a home for short term rentals term precludes the possibility that it can be used as year-round rental or ownership accommodation”. As such, I would not support raising the cap for non-owner occupied STRs. I work at developing proposals for additional ordinances based on the report of the Short Term Rental Committee, and I will present them to council in July.”

Councilor Nate Davis said June 2 that he was not in favor of allowing short-term rentals occupied by non-owners and would prefer to phase them out.

There was no response from other councillors.

The city council voted in November 2018 to create the short-term rentals committee and appointed its members the following month. The Committee released a report in March 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic put a damper on many meetings. The panel issued the same report in December 2021.

Recommendations included unit inspections. And, non-owner-occupied rentals should be limited to at least five nights, according to the recommendations.

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