Cape Elizabeth to resume review of short-term home rental rules

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CAPE ELIZABETH — With summer approaching, the discussion will be renewed on regulation short-term home rentals.

A Planning Board public hearing at 7 p.m. May 15 at Town Hall will cover proposed zoning changes regulating how homeowners can rent residences for stays of fewer than 30 days at a time.

The changes to Chapter 19 of the town ordinances are the result of about two months of Planning Board work, preceded by several months of work by the Town Council Ordinance Committee.

Planning Board members amended proposed zoning amendments sent to them by councilors in February. The changes would apply the regulations to all homes, regardless of lot size, and remove an exemption for homes owned by landlords who live adjacent to their rental property.

The Planning Board also suggests exempting properties rented for fewer than two weeks a year from new zoning requirements. For properties rented for more than two weeks per calendar year, the proposed zoning changes require an owner to get a permit from the Code Enforcement Office.

To obtain their first permit, property owners will have to have the property inspected by the Code Enforcement Office to determine if the property meets requirements for parking, waste disposal and has an evacuation plan.

Permits would be renewed annually, with a fee to be set by the Town Council. The Code Enforcement Office would be required to re-inspect short-term rental properties within five years.

Planning Board members propose limiting the number of tenants, defined as people staying overnight, to a maximum of 12 for rentals on lots less than 30,000 square feet. The maximum number of non-tenant guests allowed will be limited to 10 at a time.

When applying for a permit, landlords will be required to include a copy of the rental agreement. They will have to notify the Code Enforcement Office when the property will be available for rent.

Regulating short-term rentals was first considered last year by the council ordinance committee in response to questions and some complaints about tenant behavior in residential areas.

Town Planner Maureen O’Meara said a determination of how pervasive problems are was limited by a lack of record keeping and perhaps the reluctance of neighbors to complain. Complaints made to the Code Enforcement Office were sometimes referred to police, but few were logged by the department, she said.

A truer measure of the needed to establish some regulation came as the ordinance committee began its workshops last year. O’Meara said town officials began to receive emails, especially from residents who live near rental properties.

Questions and complaints about short-term rentals and tenant behavior have centered largely around Pond Cove Park, the neighborhood comprised of Lawson and Sea Barn roads across Shore Road from the Robinson Woods Preserve. Some complaints about properties in the Keyes Lane area have also been received, O’Meara said.

If the Planning Board approves the zoning amendments, the changes will be forwarded to the Town Council for another public hearing before a vote to enact them or table them for more consideration.

 David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or Follow David on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.