By Greg Ellison
(June 25, 2020) While discussions focused on a property on Abbyshire Road, the Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors on Tuesday opened the door to addressing the short-term rental situation.
Board member Steve Tuttle, who convened the special session, said in his opening comments adjacent neighbors had sent multiple emails with concerns over noise and late-night disruptions.
Tuttle, who raised the issue with Worcester County Commissioner Chip Bertino that afternoon, said trash and packed cars had also been an ongoing problem at the address.
Tuttle said after informing Bertino the property had been advertised online for periods of a week or less without appropriate county licensing, the commissioner pledged to investigate levying citations for prior abuses.
Tuttle said enforcement of rental regulations is the larger issue.
On Tuesday, Bertino conferred with Zoning Administrator Jennifer Keener who had previously contacted the Abbyshire property owners who vowed to begin the licensing process.
OPA President Doug Parks said all board members have inspected the property and concur the situation is unacceptable.
Parks proposed examining short-term rental regulations, while making occupant limitations the primary point.
Parks said the recently passed short-term rental legislation in Worcester County seems to lack details regarding enforcement or penalties.
Parks suggested that the board consult with county officials to develop long-term solutions, with the possibility of Ocean Pines taking the lead role.
Director Camilla Rogers, who reported seeing beds placed inside the garage at the address, asked who would assume the primary role for enforcement.
In terms of enforcement for short-term rental complaints, Parks replied that OPA governing bylaws do not permit the board to levy fines.
Parks said the question of instituting a fine structure would involve amending declarations of restrictions, an issue raised previously to mixed reaction, while suggesting the more immediate goal should be coordinating with county officials to flesh out enforcement details.
Director Frank Daly, who said he will propose researching the short-term rental issue at the July 1 board meeting, added that limited ability exists for levying fines for certain neighborhood sections built after 1995 with a majority vote of board members.
Daly said the board lacks any ability to levy fines in sections built prior to that time.
Acknowledging that asking association members to authorize a fine structure ruffled a few feathers in the past, Daly said a more palatable solution might be coordinating with Worcester County to develop a text amendment for current regulations.
Unlike neighboring municipalities that have the ability to approve ordinances through town councils, Daly said Ocean Pines, which represents the largest unincorporated area in Worcester, lacks those legal authority.
Daly also pointed out that of the roughly 180 Pines properties rented online at this point, less than a handful had generated complaints.
The board will resume deliberations on the matter during its July 1 meeting scheduled at the new Golf Clubhouse beginning at 7 p.m.