Letter to the Editor: The Campaign In Support of Short Term Rentals

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In recent months there has been an outpouring from residents of Talbot County—born here’s and come here’s, full time residents and second home owners, owners of estates and owners of cottages—all demanding more restrictions on Short Term Rentals (STRs) in our County. With good reason. Talbot County is not Myrtle Beach, or Ocean City. Tourism sure, but our Comprehensive Plan does not define Talbot County as a vacation destination.

But last weekend the MidShore Board of Realtors (MSBR) rather remarkably sent out a plea asking all Realtors to send emails to the County Council objecting to the proposed regulation of Short Term Rentals! Think about that. Ask the Realtors you know if they truly favor the interests or you and your community—or if instead they care more about the interests of the profit-motivated investors who are buying up waterfront properties to convert into party-centered short term rentals, even one of which (much less five, which has happened) can totally disrupt the harmony of a peaceful Talbot County neighborhood? What are those Realtors thinking? STR’s erode the value of nearby properties and contribute nothing positive to our neighborhoods.

(BTW, Jennifer Williams, County Council President seems to be the leading opponent of restrictions on STRs. She a Title Attorney; was legislative chair of the Board of Realtors from 2003-’07; was a Director from 2006-2010; was President in 2010; and to this day is an “Affiliate” of the MSBR.)

Piling on, the company that markets and manages the large majority of STRs in the County sent out a “click here” notice to every STR client (i.e., the landlords—including those who don’t even live here—who rent out houses for “vacations” in our communities). With a single click, each landlord can send a form email, drafted by the management company, to all 5 Council Members objecting to the proposed limits on STRs.

So if at Tuesday’s Council Meeting (Sept 11, 6 PM, Bradley Room) you hear from Ms. Williams about all the “support” for STRs from citizens, take it for what it’s worth. Forewarned is forearmed.

Dan Watson
Easton

Letters to Editor

  1. Hugh (Jock) Beebe says:

    Mr. Watson’s timely editorial describes with clarity and restraint the short term rental problem that now looms as an important issue for Talbot County.
    There are two additional aspects of this problem that deserve emphasis:

    1. The large percentage of absentee or second home owners offering short term rentals can be viewed as yet another demonstration of increasing erosion of the quality of life in Talbot County, sadly similar to the relentless advancement of big box retail stores in and around Easton. Legislation enabling development in our County is being favored by three Council members: Corey Pack, Chuck Callahan and Jennifer Williams. That’s all it takes, three votes, to set a course for change in a direction that will eventually disappoint those who chose to live here for the the quality of Eastern Shore life.
    2. Let’s pause to ask why do these council members aggressively pursue pro growth policy and legislation, apparently ignoring thoughtful consideration of long term effects? Dan Watson’s editorial suggests that it may be time to examine a question: Is there a conflict of interest between the duties of a Talbot Council Council member to act with fiduciary responsibility to the people’s interest and to be guided by the people’s Planning Commission? Can legislation affecting land use and development be properly accomplished by a council member who seems to have clear conflict of interest favoring personal benefit or financial gain?

  2. Daphne Cawley says:

    Another View on Short Term Rentals

    Over the years thousands of people have come to our County and stayed in our Short-Term Housing. Some, like our visiting nurses and construction workers are here for employment. Some are looking for a home to buy or rent and many are just visiting our wonderful County.

    They come to attend Plein Air-Easton, Water Fowl Festival, Oxford Day, Tilghman Island Seafood Festival, Christmas in St. Michaels. They come from all over the world. They are artists and Sportsman, they are bird watchers and boaters. They shop in our boutiques and eat in our restaurants. They are the ones that contribute to our estimated 214 million dollar (2016) Tourist industry and $150,000 per year in accommodation taxes which will likely double when the current, unlicensed Short Term Rentals come on board. Their short term visit allows property owners to supplement the cost of ownership, to allow owners to afford vacations of their own. Whether you choose to rent your home or not, it is a Right of Ownership and this Right should not be taken away.

    With over 6,000 rentals that occurred in the past 5 years, only a few problems have been reported. We believe that all property owners and tenants must abide by the regulations of the County and that enforcement is the key. The Counties Noise Ordinance, Trespass and Nuisance laws must be enforced for all not just a few. As the county reviews amending its regulations, we urge the Council to restrain from implementing unnecessary and burdensome regulations upon its citizens, regulations that merely serve to take away the rights of property ownership and the Right to rent, such as requiring site plans when proof of compliance is all that is needed, landscaping/barriers around gathering places as though the mere sight of people is offensive and the County does not have the right to pick and choose who is given the Right to rent their own property and to whom.

    A person does not have the Right to dictate who their neighbor should be, nor do they have the Right to know or even like their neighbor but they do have the same Right to expect that all neighbors abide by the Rules of the County and for the County to enforce the laws and regulations and to expect that these laws are just and fair for all.

    We urge all citizens of Talbot County to consider the broader view and put yourself in the position of the majority of property owners and visitors who are being good neighbors. Let’s focus on enforcement and keeping the rights of property owners intact. This may not affect you today but the erosion of property rights will affect you in the future.

    All council members have a job to serve the community an should not be singled out by their profession.

    Daphne Cawley, President Mid-Shore Board of REALTORS

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