CAPE ELIZABETH — Town councilors will work with the town planner to determine if the town should regulate short- and long-term rental properties.
They are also reworking the town’s animal control ordinance and are developing a local ban on the sale and use of consumer fireworks.
Meeting as the Ordinance Committee, Councilors Jim Walsh, Frank Governali and Anne Swift-Kayatta met Wednesday to hear from residents and discuss the merits of limiting lengths of stay in short-term rental properties.
As a way to better understand the details of the rental community, Town Planner Maureen O’Meara said she will gather information on rental properties and use that data to determine how the town compares to others.
O’Meara said she will create a spreadsheet including how many people in town rent their homes to others, if they are for short- or long-term rentals, for what kind of events and at what times of year. She also said she would conduct a survey of how other communities regulate rental properties.
Swift-Kayatta said she is not interested in telling people they could not rent their home for a year or a season, but said it is important to have some regulations.
“I think there needs to be some regulations around this, but I don’t want to get into over-regulating,” she said.
Property owner Tom Dunham of Becky’s Cove Road said regulating rental properties is “a very slippery slope.” He said he has had no problems with the people who rent his cottage, and suggested that the council revisit the issue in a year after allowing renters to self regulate.
But Mary Volin of 17 Lawson Road said the discussion is not the result of an isolated dispute among neighbors.
“I believe that this is a complex zoning issue that has serious consequences not only for the neighborhoods, but also to the quality of life to the entire community,” she said. “The problem is not with individuals. The problem is with the business model.”
And Patty Grennon of 8 Sea Barn Road said while she supports people renting their homes, she is in favor of an ordinance.
“We need to look at the impact these rentals are having to the neighborhood,” she said. “I do feel like there is a balance that can be struck … between renters and the abuttors, I feel like the renters have all the upside while we have all the downsides.”
She suggested the committee create a better definition of a single family, designate short- and long-term rental periods and limit the number of annual allowable rentals.
The Ordinance Committee will also bring a proposed amendment to the animal control portion of the disturbance ordinance to the Town Council in October to help resolve a rooster problem.
The amendment will more precisely define the types of animals and types of disturbances governed by the ordinance. It adds chickens, roosters and other farm animals to what is now essentially a rule governing house pets.
Swift-Kayatta said the amendment to the ordinance would be used as a test, and encouraged residents to talk to their neighbors before involving the police or code enforcement officer.
“I think this is a better way of doing this as a trial as opposed to trying to regulate it through code,” she said.
Walsh said the recommendation would go to the council and there would be another opportunity for the public to weigh in prior to adoption.
“The one step left is the complete ban of all roosters in this community except for farming/agriculture purposes,” he said.
The committee will also send a draft fireworks ordinance to the Town Council.
The ordinance is drafted after a Portland ordinance and according to Fire Chief Peter Gleeson will not change anything about enforcement, but would change penalties from civil to criminal violations.
Town Manager Mike McGovern said the fireworks ordinance would prohibit the use and sale of personal fireworks and would have more substantial fines for violations. Starting Jan. 1, the state will no longer prohibit personal fireworks, but municipalities can enact local limits.
The council will likely hold a public hearing on the ordinance in November, McGovern said.