OP attorneys tweak rental laws | Worcester County Information Bayside Gazette

Proposed rules will follow county laws more closely

(April 22, 2021) After canceling last Saturday’s town hall meeting on proposed short-term rental guidelines just days before it was to take place, Ocean Pines Director Frank Daly said this week the regulations are being modified to address certain concerns.

In a letter sent to fellow board members last Wednesday, Daly said the existing motion would be withdrawn while legal counsel drew up revisions.

Speaking on Monday, Daly said OPA legal counsel is writing rental regulations that precisely match Worcester County code outside of several intended exceptions.

“The attorneys are in the process of re-writing what we want to do,” he said.

Daly said the revised Pines regulations would differ slightly from county short-term rental rules in terms of parking, life-safety and refuse requirements.

“We are asking for a specific amount of trash containers and a specific amount of off-street parking,” he said.

Daly said the amended regulations would also assure adequate smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and functioning fire extinguishers were on site.

The proposed regulations would classify properties rented for terms under 29 days as businesses and require owners providing rental units, in addition to acquiring a Worcester County rental permit, to also obtain a OPA-issued permit and sticker.

The regulations would also require a Pines-issued rental sticker be displayed on the front door and a responsible party associated with the rental reside within a 30-minute drive. Additionally, bed-and-breakfast establishments would be prohibited.

The annual permitting procedure outlined included hiring licensed Maryland home inspectors to perform annual property inspections that would also ascertain maximum occupancy.

“The biggest deal was people were concerned that we were cutting the occupancy and that situations been addressed,” he said.

Daly said when the proposal was drafted, there were variations between square footage requirements of the structure and bedroom specifics that were later amended.

The issue erupted last summer because of recurring problems at a few properties that were advertised on web-based platforms such as Airbnb, VRBO, Flipkey or Homeaway.

Because of the disruptive behavior, the board formed a work group consisting of Daly, and directors Camilla Rodgers and Frank Brown to investigate the situation.

Daly said the work group uncovered at least 180 Ocean Pines properties that are regularly rented for short terms and anticipate the number to escalate in time.

Daly’s letter last week to the board noted the work group was launched to develop short-term rental regulations in accordance with existing county rules that also provided a mechanism to address violations in a timely manner.

Since last summer, the short-term rental work group has held numerous meetings with the Architectural Review Committee (ARC) and public safety officials, including the Ocean Pines Fire and Police Departments, Worcester County zoning, as well as consulting with property owners and renters.

Daly said it became apparent as the work group progressed that creating regulations to establish effective response capabilities for random violations was problematic, while also noting that community support seems to support the objectives.

Daly said the amended Ocean Pines short-term regulations would likely involve motions to address declaration of restrictions on a section-by-section basis, with final language anticipated by June.

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