This letter responds to Mr. Keith Watts’ letter published in the July 16 edition in which he asserts that the Planning Commission, Short Term Rental Review Board and County Council are bound to follow “settled law,” that STRs are “residential uses” and not “commercial uses” of property. On the contrary, these public bodies are in no way obligated to follow the case Mr. Watts cites since it has no application at all to such public bodies, and it would be incorrect for them to accede to Mr. Watts demand that they do so. That case, Lowden v. Bosley, applies only to private lawsuits over the interpretation and enforcement of private covenants encumbering property. If Talbot County or its agencies and instrumentalities, in the exercise of regulatory and zoning authority (and some would say in the exercise of common sense) chose to characterize all or some short term rentals as commercial uses, it could do so. In short, there is a huge difference between the courts’ interpretation of the meaning of a privately imposed covenant and a government’s ability to regulate activities that the government deems to be “commercial”. Pennsylvania courts, for example, have long held that local government has the power to prohibit short term rentals in areas zoned residential, and I am confident that Maryland courts would allow local government this flexibility. In fact. Talbot County’s willingness to impose a bed tax on STRs is itself a tacit admission that this activity is “commercial” in nature, i.e., a business. Additionally, where the STR property is used during a short term rental to conduct events such as weddings, reunions, retreats and conferences, the County has clearly prohibited such uses, again tacitly acknowledging their “commercial” nature.
As Mr Watts wisely stated, “You are entitled to your own opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”