Cape Elizabeth committee weighs rental property regulations

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CAPE ELIZABETH — Ordinance Committee members said they hope to strike a balance between the interests of property owners, year-round residents and seasonal renters as it wrestles with whether to regulate rental properties.

The committee, made up of Town Councilors Jim Walsh, Frank Governali and Anne Swift-Kayatta, heard Wednesday from property owners who rent their homes and neighbors who have concerns about parking, noise, events and space.

About 22 people attended the early morning meeting at Town Hall.

Nancy Ricker of Surf Road said her property abuts Keyes Lane, where there is a five-bedroom rental property on less than an acre of land. She said she has been bothered by noise in the early morning hours, the parking situation, and the number of people who rent the home at any given time.

“We bear the brunt of all of it,” she said.

But Adrian Utsch and Elise Strong said they have rented their property at 88 Two Lights Road for about five years and have had no problems with their neighbors. They said they allow long- and short-term rentals and are strict about not having weddings. They said they have more than adequate parking and the people who rent from them contribute to the local economy.

Patty Grennon, who lives on Sea Barn Road and does not have a rental property, said it seems to her that the problems are related to lot size. In the Lawson and Sea Barn roads neighborhood there are 18 lots on 6.5 acres, she said, which averages about a third of an acre per lot.

In other areas where the lot sizes are one to two acres or more, there are fewer problems with noise, parking and general disturbances, Grennon said.

“The real differentiator is lot size,” she said. “It has to do with lot size, durations of stay, frequency of rentals and numbers.”

Governali suggested the committee take a tiered approach to regulations, where property over a certain lot size would be exempt. For properties below a certain lot size, some rules would be applied to avoid problems. 

Committee members said they are not interested in creating strict regulations on rental property owners, but may consider adjusting the current noise and nuisance ordinance.

They also instructed town staff to gather information about documented complaints from the police and fire departments and the codes officer. Formal complaints will give the committee an idea of the time, location and type of problems occurring, they said.

Town Planner Maureen O’Meara will also continue to work on a draft rental property database with information about each rental property: the owner, number of bedrooms, lot size, event capability, parking and rental periods.

She will also begin to draft a document, based on a survey of ordinances from other communities, to shape the town’s possible guidelines.

At its next meeting the committee is expected to discuss the definition of a rental property; what an application process would require; boundaries for events; rental lengths and density issues.

Although Swift-Kayatta will leave the council after the Nov. 8 election, Walsh and Governali asked her to remain on the committee until a recommendation is sent to the Town Council. She said she will attend the next two committee meetings, scheduled for Monday, Nov. 7, at 8 a.m. and Wednesday, Nov. 16 at 8 a.m.

The committee is expected to send a recommendation to the council for its December meeting. There will be an opportunity for public comment at both ordinance committee meetings and in a council public hearing.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or Follow her on Twitter: @amy_k_anderson.