Realtors president: ‘Good compromise’ on rentals

By CHRISTINA ACOSTA cacosta@chespub.com

Daphne Cawley, president of the Mid-Shore Board of Realtors, recently said the Talbot County Council reached a healthy compromise regarding short-term rentals.

The mission of the Mid-Shore Board of Realtors is to advocate for its members and the public to preserve the right to own, transfer and utilize property. The board provides their members with resources to conduct business within the Realtor Code of Ethics.

There were concerns from the board that it would affect grocery stores, carpet cleaning services, bike rentals and even kayak services. There are currently 128 short term rental licenses in Talbot County.

“The broad part of it is, we are very happy at the way the shortterm rental was voted on not only from the realtor perspective, but also from business within the community,” said Cawley. “It ended up being a good compromise, and maintained property rights. I think that investors are now happy because you have to have a license, you have to pay and those are things that investors are realizing. For now we can live with it.”

Cawley went further to explain that as short-term rentals move forward, the county can see what part of these regulations are just hindering the process.

On Tuesday, Sept. 11, council members went through 13 amendments for Bill 1401, including several related to short-term rentals.

Amendment 1 would have required any new short-term rentals to be the principal residence of the applicant and would have allowed short-term rentals for accessory dwellings if the owner was staying in the principal residence during the rental period.

Amendment 3 would have capped short-term rental licenses at two percent of the number of housing units within the unincorporated areas of Talbot County.

Amendment 9 would have prohibited new short-term rental licenses in the county’s Town Residential zoning district.

All three amendments were defeated on a 2-3 vote with council members Price and Bartlett in favor and Council members Williams, Callahan and Pack opposed.

Amendment 11, proposed on Sept. 11 by Williams, would allow the county to issue a $500 fine to any property owner operating or advertising an unlicensed shortterm rental on or after 6 months from date Bill 1401 takes effect. The property owner also would be prohibited from applying for a short-term rental license for 12 months from the date of the violation.

Applicants also would be required to have an onsite inspection of the property and would allow renewal licenses to be issued for a period of up to two years. The amendment eliminated a requirement to show a copy of an insurance policy for $500,000. Williams’ amendment was approved 3-2, with council members Callahan and Pack joining Williams in a yay vote; Council members Bartlett and Price voted against.

“We advocate for property rights for both sides. We are going to be monitoring it, sitting in on review boards, and hopefully see if this is working. We want to make sure that both owner and neighbors are getting their voice heard,” said Cawley.

Short-term rentals have been crucial for the tourism industry, which in Maryland continues to be a powerful economic engine and job generator making it the tenth largest private sector employer in the state. In Fiscal Year 2017, visitors to Maryland spent nearly $17.3 billion on travel, an increase of more than four percent over the previous year.

Visitor spending is an important revenue generator for both state and local governments, generating $2.35 billion in taxes last year. That increase in revenues is driven by the fact that Maryland welcomed 42.1 million domestic visitors, an increase of four percent from 40.5 million the previous year.

The Fiscal Year 2017 Direct Tourism Consumption Taxes for Talbot County include the room and taxes collected by the county amounted to $1,298,895; Tourism Promotion Act Sales Taxes were $4,048,792; Total Direct Consumer Tax Impact was $5,446,754; the County Tourism Budget was $554,445; the Tourism development Board Grant awarded $89,817; and Admission and Amusement taxes are $99,067.

“Tourism is a big deal. St. Michaels wouldn’t exist if we did not have tourism because it is a large part of (the economy,” Cawley said.

In 1998, The Talbot County Board of Realtors officially merged with the Dorchester County Board of Realtors to form the Mid-Shore Board of Realtors, an organization that now serves Caroline, Dorchester, and Talbot counties. The Board of Realtors is chartered by National Association of Realtors and is the Realtor organization at the local level.

This article provided by NewsEdge.