Landlords' pleas fail to delay Cape Elizabeth consideration of rental rules

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CAPE ELIZABETH — While members of a recently formed property owners association asked for more time and less regulation, the Planning Board on Tuesday scheduled a full public hearing on a possible short-term rental ordinance.

The move hear more about regulating short-term rentals came after board members listened to about an hour of comments, almost all from property owners who have formed the Cape Elizabeth Rental Association.

Tom Dunham was among the 11 property owners who asked for a chance to “self-regulate this summer.”

Town councilors and Planning Board members have been considering whether short-term rentals of fewer than 30 days should be licensed and inspected, with limits on the number of tenants and visitors.

Planning Board Chairwoman Elaine Falender noted the board does not enact or reject ordinances, but makes recommendations to the Town Council.

“It is an interim step, but an important one,” she said, adding the board takes no position on ordinance recommendations by scheduling the hearing for 7 p.m. on June 19 at Town Hall.

Town Planner Maureen O’Meara said Planning Board members could not table the ordinance questions for the summer as property owners hoped, because councilors are expecting some recommendations before taking up the ordinance again themselves.

In opposition to the proposed ordinance, property owners told the board short-term rental issues of noise and parking are best solved by neighborhood cooperation and careful tenant screening, while additional regulations could hurt the town’s economy.

“There is economic impact that extends beyond the individual taxpayer,” Sea Barn Road resident Tracey Ginn said.

Ginn also read a letter from Scarborough resident Jim Minott, noting he and friends who rented the Sea Barn Road property spent money at local stores and restaurants while staying in town.

Ginn and her family have been at the center of the discussion after they began renting their home in the last two years.

Ginn’s late brother, David Ginn, organized the property owners association last September, and she said her family learned a great deal about rental procedures by talking to other local property owners.

“You learn very quickly who to rent to and not what to allow in your home,” she said.

Her perceptions were countered by accounts from Sea Barn Road residents Chris and Patty Grennon, who said the compact neighborhood off Shore Road has been disrupted by short-term rentals. They said tighter control is needed.

“I’ve had brides at my front door to see if they can keep the music going after 10 p.m. when my kids are going to bed,” Chris Grennon said. “We think people coming and enjoying Cape Elizabeth is great, but we need some boundaries.”

Patty Grennon said the influx of tenants from May through October upsets the balance of the neighborhood because tenants bring a different energy level to the residential area.

Minott later spoke, saying he was informed before renting about what the expectations were on tenant conduct, where to park, and how to fit into the neighborhood during his stay.

Setting boundaries for tenant behavior is best done by property owners working with neighbors, Surf Road resident Nancy Ricker said.

Ricker, who lives next to a property rented by its owner, said she does not support proposed town regulations.

“I strongly feel consideration and communication would pretty much take care of everything,” Ricker said.

Chris Grennon said he has tried to approach owners in his neighborhood, rather than police, with his complaints about noise and parking. But he said a lack of response led him to support the ordinances.

The proposed regulations exempt properties rented for less than two weeks annually, but would require property owners to get a annual permit to rent their homes. The permit requires an initial inspection by the code enforcement officer and a copy of the rental agreement to be on file in the Code Enforcement Department.

The ordinance allows no more than two tenants (defined as staying overnight) per bedroom with a maximum of 10 tenants per rental unit. Non-tenant day visitors would be capped at 10.

Elements of the ordinance were criticized as too broad, because rental properties in areas like Old Ocean House Road are on larger lots, with neighbors farther away, than homes in the Sea Barn Road area.

The rental association has about 25 members, some with about a decade of experience as landlords. Short-term rentals are a way to help pay expenses, Yarmouth resident Charles Cole said.

“The only reason we rent is because of a massive tax bill,” he said about his family-owned property on Old Mill Road. 

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