Licensing one part of multi-bill package headed for hearings

(July 5, 2019) With an eye on obtaining more revenue through rental licensing and responding to constituent concerns about short-term rentals, the Worcester County Commissioners on Tuesday embarked on an effort to clarify and simplify the county’s rental regulations.

Ed

Ed Tudor

The undertaking dates back to Dec. 18, 2018, when Commissioner Joseph Mitrecic asked Ed Tudor, director of development review and permitting,  to tackle the rental issue to “generate revenue from county property owners who rent their properties for transient use.

Tudor also was directed to update the county’s rental license program during a Jan. 22 Worcester County Commissioners meeting.

On Tuesday, Tudor clarified that short-term rentals are 28 days are less because units are rented primarily on a weekly basis.

The several pieces of legislation that would effect the changes the commissioners seek would cover zoning, tourism permits, taxation and revenue, and mobile home licenses.

Tudor said the first bill is comprised of 17 sections that set requirements for the program. 

“We’re aiming at the operator so an operator doesn’t have more than one contract at a time,” Tudor said.

The second bill would repeal a tourist permit section and replace it with a rental license section, which Tudor said “is the basis for the entire licensing program.”

The following types of properties need a rental license no matter how long the rental term: buildings, dwellings, recreational vehicles, hotels or motels, cottages, apartments or sites for the placement of a recreational vehicle or other types of shelter, according to a proposal. 

Tudor also urged the commissioners to set license fees by resolution, which could be established for different categories.

“I believe it is most important that all rental properties have a license,” Tudor said in a memorandum. 

Commissioner Chip Bertino suggested the licenses could be free of charge.

“It’s important for the county to know that this house is being used as a rental property,” Bertino said. “If the license is free or paid … [the] information on the license is important.”

Mitrecic also said this type of legislation is designed “to protect renters also.” 

The third bill is designed to reword the regulatory language with regards to rental units to make it more consistent with other bills.

Tudor said the taxation and revenue article, however, would be updated to reflect the modern language associated with rental units in other regulatory matters.

The fourth bill, which covers mobile and manufactured home park licenses, calls for the repeal of an excise tax.

Tudor suggested implementing a rental license fee for “individual mobile or manufactured home sites” to recoup that lost revenue.

Tudor told the commissioners that inspections of rental properties would be primarily complaint-driven.

“While inspections will certainly be necessary to address license complaints, there is currently no requirement for any type of inspection either before or after the issuance of a rental license,” Tudor said.

The commissioners did clash over the proposed parking requirements, which state that rentals units must provide two off-street parking spaces.

Commissioner Jim Bunting said he wanted to limit the number of people able to stay in a rental property, while others expressed concerns over a rental property being able to accommodate more people than the parking spots could accommodate.

“I would not want to live in a community that was allowing this stuff to happen on each side of me and I don’t even have a place to be able to put my car out of my driveway,” Bunting said.

Bertino also asked how visitors bringing boats or Jet skis would have room for them with just two required off-site parking spaces.

Nevertheless, the situation appeared to puzzle many.

“I don’t know what I’m saying because I’m still trying to get my arms around it,” Bertino said.

However, Tudor said the parking issue is “something very easy to change”  and the commissioners don’t need to “have a definitive solution today.”

Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Kelly Shannahan recommended the commissioners review the measures and suggest further changes before the bills are introduced on July 16.

A public hearing on the legislation is slated for the commissioners’ Aug. 20 meeting.

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