Cape Elizabeth institutes permit fee for short-term rentals

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CAPE ELIZABETH — Three town councilors and School Board members took oaths of office Monday, followed by the Town Council moving quickly through a light agenda that included approving a fee for short-term rental home permits.

The council unanimously elected Jim Walsh as chairman.

Walsh and Councilors Jessica Sullivan and Jamie Wagner were sworn in by Town Clerk Debra Lane, who then administered oaths of office to School Board members Kate Williams-Hewitt, David Hillman and John Christie.

Afterwards, in a 5-1 vote, with Councilor Caitlin Jordan opposed and Councilor David Sherman absent, the council approved a $50 permit fee for the new rental ordinance adopted last month.

Town Manager Mike McGovern said there was no “magic” formula to arrive at the $50 amount, just that “it wasn’t $25 and it wasn’t $100.”

Jordan said she didn’t see a reason to impose a fee at this point, noting that the council plans to review the ordinance’s effectiveness in one year.

“People are using (short-term rentals) as an income source and now we’re using it as an income source,” she said. “It it truly is a trial ordinance; we should be waiving the fee in the first year.”

Councilor Frank Governali said the fee amount is appropriate and that it will help offset costs incurred from processing rental permits.

The short-term rental ordinance was adopted as an effort to put an end to rowdy rental homes, and includes a “three-strikes” rule for habitual offenders. The new rules require rental property owners to adhere to several new regulations and go through a permitting process for leases shorter than 30 days.

Permits will only be granted after a town code officer determines the rental has adequate fire extinguishers, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, proof of sanitary waste disposal, appropriate exits and evacuation plans.

The new ordinance also restricts the number of tenants to no more than two per bedroom and does not allow more than eight tenants in one property at any time on lots of less than 30,000 square feet.

The ordinance takes effect Friday, Dec. 14.

In a related action, the council scheduled a public hearing and vote to add more detailed language to the ” disturbing the peace” section of the miscellaneous offenses ordinance.

The amendment includes violations for “excessive volume of music” and sets quiet hours beginning at 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and from 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. It also holds property owners responsible for noise violations.

The council also set a public hearing for a proposed amendment to the sign ordinance that would allow businesses operating in residential zones to have the same size signs that are allowed in nonresidential zones.

Two residents who opposed the ordinance addressed the council on the issue, including Ben Morrill, who said allowing larger signs in residential neighborhoods would disrupt the character of the town.

Will Graff can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @W_C_Graff.