By Greg Ellison
Then look at new rules for short-term vacation units
(July 2, 2020) Responding to concerns about an Ocean Pines seasonal rental on Abbyshire Road, Worcester County Commissioner Chip Bertino at a special Board of Directors meeting last Tuesday suggested enforcing short-term rental regulations before examining how to tweak the rules.
“It’s a problem and it’s been a problem for the neighborhood for years,” he said. “Now we have a (county) law on the books that requires short-term rental licenses and we also have some teeth in the bill that allows for citations … if they do not follow the law.”
During the hastily convened meeting, OPA President Doug Parks said all board members recently performed visual inspections of the Abbyshire Road property and agreed the address remains glaringly unkempt.
Despite Worcester County requiring rental licenses this summer, board members said the property continues to be advertised online without following regulations.
Bertino said current county rental licensing regulations include a fine structure for noncompliance of $25 for the first day and $100 per day after.
“If you’re renting a place that’s not licensed, you’re exposed to that sort of risk,” he said. “That could add up quick.”
Bertino said Zoning Administrator Jennifer Keener has been working with the Abbyshire Road property owner, and the year-round tenant who markets the home for short-term occupancy, to complete licensing procedures.
“First, I’d like to see the Abbyshire Road property brought into compliance by the county and the landlord,” he said. “We’re working through putting into practical use this law, so that the neighbors there no longer … feel as if they’re being harassed by the great number of people who are occupying the house.”
By all accounts, Bertino said, the online rental regularly caters to occupants approaching double digits.
“I went by there yesterday and it looks like a pig sty,” he said. “I counted 8 or 9 cars there with license plates from New York and Pennsylvania.”
Bertino said the county licensing process should help reduce occupancy rates.
“One of the things that when they are licensed and … provide … a layout of the house, the county and the landlord will be able to determine what the occupancy rate is in accordance to the law,” he said. “That has not happened at this point because the property has not been licensed.”
Although board deliberations about penalty enforcement during the special meeting last week included either the possibility of expanding OPA declaration of restrictions to enact stricter rental regulations or creating a text amendment to the county law, Bertino said either sentiment could be premature.
“It would be a real uphill push for a DR change because it would have to go through each section of the community,” he said. “That would be a heavier lift than doing a text amendment.”
The latter solution might not be required.
“Let’s see what we can do with the current law before we start tweaking it without knowing what the results are going to be,” he said.
Bertino said county staff should be permitted additional time to enforce current legislation to discover any shortcomings with the law as written.
“If we do need to make an amendment, we make that … based on some sort of history or example,” he said. “I’d hate to keep … knit picking with text amendments and it’s only been on the book for six months.”
The board will resume deliberations on the matter during its July 1 meeting, which will be conducted at the Golf Clubhouse with public attendance restricted.