OP attorneys tweak rental regulations

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OP attorneys tweak rental regulations

The proposed rules will follow the county laws more closely

(April 22, 2021) After Ocean Pines director Frank Daly canceled the town hall meeting last Saturday over proposed short-term rental policies, he said this week that regulations will be changed to address certain concerns.

In a letter to board members last Wednesday, Daly said the existing motion would be withdrawn while legal counsel worked out revisions.

On Monday, Daly said the OPA’s legal counsel is writing rental regulations that are exactly the same as the Worcester County code, with several intended exceptions.

“The lawyers are about to rewrite what we want to do,” he said.

Daly said the revised Pines regulations for parking, life safety and waste requirements would vary slightly from the county’s short-term rental rules.

“We ask for a certain amount of dumpsters and a certain amount of off-street parking,” he said.

Daly said the amended regulations would also ensure there are adequate smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and working fire extinguishers on site.

The proposed regulations would classify properties that are rented for terms less than 29 days as business and require owners who provide rental units to also obtain an OPA-issued permit and sticker in addition to obtaining a Worcester County rental permit.

The regulations would also require a Pines-issued rental sticker to be posted on the front door and a responsible party associated with the rental agreement to live within a 30-minute drive. Bed & breakfasts would also be prohibited.

The annual approval process described involved hiring licensed home inspectors in Maryland to conduct annual property inspections that also determine the maximum occupancy.

“The biggest problem was that people were concerned that we were reducing occupancy and that situations were being addressed,” he said.

Daly said when the proposal was drafted there was a discrepancy between the structure’s square footage requirements and the bedroom specifications, which were later changed.

The problem arose last summer due to recurring problems with some properties that were advertised on web-based platforms such as Airbnb, VRBO, Flipkey or Homeaway.

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

Daly said the task force has uncovered at least 180 Ocean Pines properties that are regularly rented on short term and expects the number to escalate over time.

Daly’s letter to the board last week stated that the working group was set up to develop short-term rental regulations in line with existing county rules, which also provided a mechanism to counter violations in a timely manner.

Since last summer, the Short Term Rental Working Group has held numerous meetings with the Architectural Review Committee (ARC) and public safety officials, including the Fire and Police Departments of Ocean Pines, Worcester County Zoning, and consultations with property owners and tenants.

Daly said it had become apparent in the course of the working group that creating rules to create effective responses to random violations was problematic and that community support appears to support the goals.

Daly said Ocean Pines’ amended short-term regulations would likely include requests to section the declaration of restrictions, with final language expected by June.