Fort Williams bus fees, tighter seasonal rental controls likely in Cape Elizabeth

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CAPE ELIZABETH — Whether day-tripping or in town for a week, some visitors to Cape Elizabeth could find their stays slightly more expensive and possibly more regulated after the Feb. 13 Town Council meeting.

On the agenda for the 7 p.m. meeting at Town Hall is the implementation of fees for tour bus and street-car operators at Fort Williams Park, and zoning regulations for short-term rental properties.

Councilors initially approved charging the bus operators fees for park use last fall. The $40 fee for individual bus visits and seasonal fee of $1,500 for three trolley-type tour vehicles was moved forward at last Monday night’s council workshop.

If passed, the fee schedule allows a discount of $5 per visit for locally based tour operators who participate in a monthly invoicing program. Tour operators who can show their 2012 tour rates were set by Nov. 1, 2011, can obtain waivers of park fees for the 2012 season.

Maine Tour Connection owner Chris Rackmyre told councilors Monday it is not uncommon for tour company owners to set their fees in the fall, and operating margins are so thin that changing fees can cost them customers.

Rackmyre estimated her company makes about 70 visits annually to the park in vehicles holding up to 55 passengers. She estimated the average number of passengers per trip is 38.

Town Manager Michael McGovern said the waivers are a way to ensure operators don’t eliminate the park from their summer schedules or not come back after the summer. Under the fee plan, it will be up to Portland Head Light Museum Director Jeanne Gross to grant fee waivers.

Along with fees, the town and museum management will spend $15,000 to hire greeters who will work in the traffic circle and parking at Portland Head Light to provide information about the park and other local attractions. The town share of the program cost is $5,000.

Before voting on the bus and street-car park fees, councilors will consider a series of amendments to more effectively regulate rentals of private homes to seasonal visitors.

Included in the proposed changes are requiring property owners a to get a short-term rental permit issued by Code Enforcement Officer Bruce Smith; capping the number of overnight visitors at 12, with an additional six allowed for daytime visits, and showing the rental property has adequate waste disposal systems for renters.

The proposed revisions add the “short-term rental” designation to zoning ordinances. Short-term rentals are defined in the proposed changes as dwellings (excluding motels) that are available for rent for periods of less than 30 days.

McGovern said the proposed changes are the result of six Ordinance Committee workshops held from November through last month.The committee, comprised of Councilors James Walsh, Kathy Ray and David Sherman, received more than 100 comments from residents.

Violations of the proposed ordinance changes would be handled by Smith and the Code Enforcement Office under Maine laws establishing maximum $2,500 fines, or double if the violations occur in resource-protected areas.

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

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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.