More Information To make a complaint about a short-term rental, which may be made anonymously, call the 24/7 complaint line at 410-819-2284.
EASTON — Some neighbors want a moratorium.
Owners and agents want the application process streamlined.
Talbot’s Short-Term Rental Review Board heard the widely disparate views Thursday afternoon, Aug. 22, during a work session at the community center.
About 50 concerned citizens and representatives of vacation rental firms attended the work session, which also drew Talbot County Councilmen Chuck Callahan and Pete Lesher.
The board is considering possible changes to the short-term rental application process and also reviewing suggestions for changes to the county law governing short-term rentals.
Board members received 37 written comments before Thursday’s work session and began the meeting by summarizing those submissions. If the author was present, he or she was invited to comment further and/or answer questions from the board.
Several people asked the board to recommend a moratorium on new licenses to the county council to give Talbot time to look at the number of short-term rentals, their location, and how the current law is working.
Another suggestion was to limit short-term rental licenses to homes that are the principal residence of the property owner. The owner would have to live in the home for just more than half the year and therefore would be paying income taxes in Talbot County
In a written comment, Julie Susman of Royal Oak noted Easton had limited short-term rentals to the principal residence of the property owner or an outbuilding on the property that satisfied all building, fire and safety codes.
Others who supported that limitation argued that requiring a short-term rental to be the principal residence of the property owner would result in fewer issues with renters and would curtail the proliferation of STRs owned and operated by out-of-county businesses.
“The original purpose for STR’s was to allow homeowners to share their home with travelers and to provide the owner the ability to earn some extra income,” Robert Haase of St. Michaels wrote.
Allowing firms and outside investors to buy a home solely to have a short-term rental has commercialized traditional residential neighborhoods in ways never intended by county zoning laws, he wrote.
“(F)ree enterprise should never trump the quality of life consideration for neighbors and taxpayers who moved here (and) invested in residentially zoned neighborhoods to enjoy in peace and quiet,” Haase wrote.
Owners of vacation rentals and management firms said STRs bring substantial income to Talbot County, including to restaurants, museums, and other businesses.
Maura and Jim Vanderzon, own a vacation rental outside Easton.
Maura Vanderzon said her parents owned a vacation home outside Cambridge and she has loved the “peace and beauty of the Eastern Shore” since she was a little kid.
The couple married in St. Michaels in 2000 and dreamed of buying a waterfront vacation home, finally purchasing one in 2017.
With active teenagers, the family was unable to use the home as often as they wished and decided to use it as an occasional vacation rental.
The couple noted that numerous businesses benefit from the home’s rental, while guests enjoy the county’s hospitality and frequent restaurants and other businesses.
“The bottom line is that we benefit by being able to rent our home when we can’t use it, but the local economy and the many individuals who rely on tourism to supplement their incomes benefit via the thousands of people who want to come to Talbot County and spend their dollars to experience the beauty and unique charm of our special area of the world,” the Vanderzons wrote. “A well-regulated short-term rental process will allow for many more visitors to travel to Talbot County while at the same time fueling the local economy.”
But others, including a few B&B owners, said the increasing number of STRs likely was having a negative effect on their businesses and on area hotels.
One B&B owner said she also has an STR license and rents the property that way during summer months and as a B&B during spring and fall.
In written comments, vacation rental firms also asked for the existing law to be changed to allow for a license application to be submitted at any time during the year. The county currently only accepts applications for short-term rental licenses during two two-month periods (January/February and July/August) each year.
Limiting the application period results in the county planning office getting inundated with short-term rental applications during those four months, causing delays in STR license approvals, as well as for other permits and licenses being reviewed by planners, according to STR owners and managers.
Some rental firms and owners also suggested the county “grandfather” homes built before 2003 and not require those homes to comply with current building codes for window size, stairway width and dimensions of stairway risers.
Matt Tucker, general counsel for Eastern Shore Vacation Rentals LLC, said making such changes to older homes is cost-prohibitive and takes a lot of time.
In a written comment, Eastern Shore Vacation Rentals asked for the grandfathering “to preserve the historical nature and architectural integrity of Talbot County homes and properties and in the interests of fairness.”
Requiring older homes to conform to newer standards, “particularly with respect to window size, stairwell width, and tread and riser dimensions, would force owners who wished to receive a short-term rental license to undergo extraordinary costs to renovate and rebuild parts (or) entireties of homes, many of them with historic charm, throughout the County,” the firm wrote.
Scott Kane, chairman of the review board, said the panel had wrestled with the issue, but “the regulation we have been given is relatively clear.”
Tucker then suggested a middle-ground approach — allowing an STR owner to sign a compliance agreement to have the work done in a certain amount of time.
With the agreement in hand, the board would OK the license and the owner would be able to generate income to help pay for the work needed to meet the building code.
The short-term rental review board will hold another public work session at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 29, at the Talbot County Community Center on U.S. Route 50 north of Easton.
Written comment may be mailed to the Talbot County Department of Planning and Zoning, ATTN: Short-Term Rental Review Board, 215 Bay St., Suite #2, Easton, MD 21601.
The board’s published rules of procedure and the board’s enabling legislation, Chapter 190-63 of the Talbot County Code, may be viewed on the Department of Planning and Zoning’s home page by visiting the county’s website at www.talbotcountymd.gov.
For more information, call the Talbot County Department of Planning and Zoning at 410-770-8030.
To make a complaint about a short-term rental, which may be made anonymously, call the 24/7 complaint line at 410-819-2284.