Hugh

(Nov. 20, 2020) The outdated zoning requirement that obligated owners of an accessory apartment to live on site if they were renting that unit has been eliminated by a zoning code amendment approved by the Worcester County Commissioners Tuesday.

Attorney Hugh Cropper, representing applicant Kathy Clark, said they wanted to see the stipulation removed for three reasons.

“First, since this was enacted, you have enacted a fairly detailed and strict licensing requirements for rental units,” Cropper said. 

Applicants must purchase a license and submit detailed contact information, which was not the case when the code was enacted.

“Secondly, more and more people are owning properties in the name of a corporation or an LLC,” Cropper said. “This is an LLC, and the question is who is the owner of the residential unit if it’s in the name of an LLC?”

Cropper said if a corporation owned the unit, the dwelling requirement could be easily circumnavigated through stock allocations, which would make pinpointing a single owner extremely difficult. 

As for the third factor, Cropper used the example of a friend who moved away for a year and rented his property. 

“This would have prevented that,” Cropper said. 

Cropper added that the restriction only penalized new property owners, as there was no way to police existing property owners. 

Commissioner Chip Bertino asked why the dwelling restriction had been enacted in the first place. 

Ed Tudor, planning and permitting director, said the goal had been to ensure somebody was on site to take care of the other unit and be available for contact. 

Tudor agreed with Cropper, and said the new licensing regulations negated this concern, since the county had easy access to property owners. 

Commissioner Jim Bunting said he did not approve of the amendment, as it would allow for the property to be used as an Airbnb, or similar short-term rental, unit and exceed parking restrictions.  

He asked if anything could be added to prevent parking from being abused. 

“This would still be an accessory apartment and the parking requirements would still apply,” Tudor said. “This wouldn’t eliminate the parking requirements that you have.” 

The property currently is allowed four parking spaces. 

“If you have 10 or 15 people there with 10 cars, where are they going to get to?” Bunting asked, expressing his frustration with the amendment’s supposed lack of parking safeguards. 

The commissioners passed the amendment, with Bunting and Bertino in opposition.

Josh covers everything Ocean City government and crime. He graduated from the University of Richmond in 2019 with a B.A. in French and Journalism.

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