Rehoboth Commissioners Debate Vacation Rental Ordinance - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Rehoboth Commissioners Debate Vacation Rental Ordinance

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Monday morning's city commissioners meeting in Rehoboth Beach. (Photo: WBOC) Monday morning's city commissioners meeting in Rehoboth Beach. (Photo: WBOC)

REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. - Vacation rentals are back at the center of debate in Rehoboth Beach. The issue, which has long been a controversial topic in Rehoboth Beach, was temporarily put aside for much of the last eight months, while the city commissioners tackled other more pressing issues like pools, noise, and zoning. 

But on Monday morning, the topic took center stage at a public workshop at city hall. The ordinance, as written, included a hodge-podge of new policies, such as designating one local person as the property's contact, who would be responsible for problems with renters and mandating regular inspections of the properties. Perhaps the most controversial part of the ordinance: setting occupancy limits by the number of bedrooms. 

All of the policies are in order to deal with what many neighbors have called the "commercialization" of vacation rental homes that can hold more than 20 people in some extreme situations. Neighbors have told the commissioners that this has chipped away at their quaint way of life. 

Many of the issues, including the one of occupancy, were greeted by major opposition at Monday's workshop from the realtor community. In the end, the majority of commissioners seemed to shy away from the occupancy policy as well. 

"It's too far reaching," said Mayor Sam Cooper at the meeting. 

This was a sentiment shared by various other commissioners, including Kathy McGuiness. She was critical of mandating all realtors to limit occupancy, when the majority were not creating the problems.  

"Why step in to regulate when it's already followed by most," she said. 

Commissioner Bill Sargent disagreed with the majority of the group, arguing that occupancy limits were necessary to limit excessively large groups at vacation rental homes. He argued that leaving it up to the realtors was part of the problem. 

"If it was working," he said. "We wouldn't be talking about this."

Moving forward, Cooper suggested addressing only issues of the local contact and an inspection of some type. Neighbor Susan Gay said she was on board with any action to deter these large rental homes. 

"Very large houses are being built with seven or eight bedrooms," she said. "It's messing with the character of the city. The character of the city is not a bunch of mini-hotels. That's not what we're about." 

Gay spoke at the meeting, but was far out-numbered by realtors speaking in opposition to aspects of the ordinance, including the occupancy limits. That included Sharon Palmer-Stauffer, from Coldwell Banker.

"What is happening is some of the older cottages are being torn down," she said. "And bigger homes are being built in their place. But we have a situation here where people are spending a million dollars for a lot. They're not going to put an 1,800 square foot cottage on there. Those days are over."

Two other issues that are on the horizon are a parking ordinance and a trash ordinance. Neither are included with the current ordinance, but both were discussed at Monday's meeting. 

The commissioners were vocal about shying away from a parking ordinance, which would increase the number of mandated parking spots for each additional bathroom above three in a house. However at least one commissioner recommended a possible task force to address the issue in the future. 

Meanwhile, Commissioner Stan Mills spoke passionately about the city's trash problem concerning large homes and rentals. He suggested pulling the topic from the ordinance all together, and creating a trash ordinance that would stand on its own. 

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