EASTON — The Talbot County Council held its first public comment session at the council meeting on Tuesday Sept. 10.

The council agreed on Aug. 13 to allow public comments at the end of its meetings. A total of seven people spoke Sept. 10 to discuss their stance on short-term rentals, and how it affects the county.

“I’m elated we are taking this step up for the public comment,” council member Pete Lesher said. “I understand we will be generally doing this at the end of our meeting tonight will be an exception to that,”

John V. Louis and Michelle Louis, of Halo’s Haven Vacations, were the first people to speak up during public comment, and were seeking reinstatement of their short-term rental license.

Halo’s Haven Vacations supports the rehabilitation for the horses at their animal and equine rescue, John Louis said.

“We ended up having to sell the farm and moved the horses the equine rescue to our farm in St. Michaels, and that was at the end of 2018,” John Louis said. “We have failed to renew the license because we closed the LLC, and we were unable to file for our 2019 license. The county informed us of that in June of this year, and at that point, we have started to get that process going and got the new LLC.”

Talbot County Council President Corey Pack redirected them to the Short-Term Rental Review Board.

Monica Otte, of St. Michaels, pointed out that when NextStep 190 was being considered last year, many people identified problems with short-term rentals. Many advocated for more stringent requirements, and the council voted to adopt them.

“And that strong enforcement of the new rules and the belief was that enforcement would go a long way to solve some of the problems that have being identified,” Otte said. “It’s a little discouraging we are only less of a year into this process operating under the new rules that essentially state enforcement into the new properties. My concern is that this might be a slippery slope because there may be other properties out there too, (and) how many more will come in and ask for relief.”

Bob Haase, of St. Michaels, addressed the importance of egress codes for the safety of the people inside a home as well as firefighters. When reviewing nine applicants that were not in good standing, Haase was left surprise he did not, “Know how the county council can go back and issue a provisional license to these people knowing a there could be a health hazard and someone can die these fires.”

“Talbot County was the first county in Maryland to step forward with the sprinkler bills because there was a few deaths in a house that didn’t have sprinklers and the firemen did not get there in time,” Haase said. “Talbot County usually steps forward and does the right thing, and I hope you will do the same thing now.”

Howard Snyder, of Easton, said affected properties should not be able to rent until they get a permanent license.

“They may have provisional license but that should be to give them the opportunity to fix whatever is wrong and not have to wait 12 months to apply,” Snyder said. “I think you should make this very limiting, I also think that what every period of time you give them, a stay on, there should be no extensions on the stay.”

Short-Term Rental Review Board Chairman Scott Kane, of Easton, attended the public comment to be a resource to council if they had any questions.

“We have not as a board had a chance to hold a meeting and take a position on this, my comments are basically mine,” Kane said. “I think you have heard from people prior here that applicants do not understand the process that they should come here to county council or they should be going to the short-term rental board. We feel perfectly enabled and powered and adequate to do the jobs, listen to applicants, conduct a hearing and make a decision.”

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