Cecil County Moves to Limit Private Vacation Home Rentals; Regs to Mandate Advance County OK

January 7, 2015

The Cecil County Council is considering legislation to set tough new regulations on owners of single-family homes who rent their properties out temporarily to vacationers, imposing zoning and inspection mandates on all properties as part of an effort to crack down on one particular Earleville home that has been the subject of community complaints.

Property owners would have to obtain in advance a “special exception” from the county’s board of appeals, have the property inspected by zoning and health agencies, provide off-street parking at the rate of two parking spaces per bedroom in the house, and limit occupancy to two persons per bedroom. In addition, rentals would have to be for a minimum of five days and for no more than “four weeks per month.”

The proposal defines a ‘vacation rental home’ as “a transient vacation rental or use in which overnight accommodations are provided in a family residential dwelling unit to guests for compensation for periods of less than 30 days.”

The regulations, advanced by the administration of County Executive Tari Moore, received a chilly reception from the county’s Planning Commission on 12/15/14, when the proposal died for lack of a second on a motion to approve it. Hence, the planning panel made no recommendation of support for the proposal. (No citizens spoke in favor or against the proposal at the meeting.)

But the plan is moving ahead anyway with its introduction before the County Council, on the agenda of the 1/6/15 meeting. The bill was introduced by Council President Robert Hodge (R-5) at the request of the county executive. A public hearing is scheduled for 2/3/15.

The broad-brush legislative approach that would apply throughout the county stems from community complaints about one property: a large manor-style house on 7.5 acres of waterfront property, located at 265 Veazey Cove Road in Earleville. Local residents say the property is rented out for weddings, events, and transient guests who have held loud parties and parked vehicles obstructing a narrow dirt road that serves other nearby residents.

The county has filed two court actions against the owner of the property, listed on state land records and court documents as Amos K. King, of Lancaster, PA. A court order for “eviction” was obtained last summer and a follow up legal action seeking a “contempt” citation was filed in the fall, but both cases are now headed to a hearing later this month in District Court.

County Planning Director Eric Sennstrom told Cecil Times that the property owner was cited for failure to comply with building and permit regulations and failing to adhere to a timetable for compliance. In addition, he said the operation is in violation of existing county regulations banning commercial business operations in a residential zone without a zoning “special exception” and the legal action seeks to require the owner to cease such operations.

The property features a large, 10,023 square-foot, two-story house that was built in 1950. It is currently valued at $1.25 million, according to state assessment records. But King got the property at a bargain price of $928,500 when he purchased it from a bank in the summer of 2012. (The property was turned over to the bank as a settlement on a $2.4 million outstanding obligation on the site.)

Under questioning by the Planning Commission, minutes of the December meeting show, Sennstrom said that condominiums could not be used for vacation rentals under the new regulations if they were located within a multi-family building. He also said that the County Attorney added the five-consecutive days minimum stay and the four week per month maximum occupancy to the proposal as “a way to reduce the potential of more frequent short term events that may cause a nuisance to neighboring homes.”

The legislation makes no special provisions for extended family members who might rent a house from a relative on a short-term basis for a vacation. In many older waterfront or water-privileged communities in southern Cecil County, houses have been in families for generations. While one side of the family might have inherited the property legally, extended family members often visit and pay a modest rental fee for a short-term stay in the summer.

As homes in these rural areas age, family rental contributions are often used to pay for needed maintenance and upkeep on the houses. And some residents, especially seniors on fixed incomes, offer rentals for a few weeks per summer to non-relatives as a way to cover maintenance and property tax costs

The legislation also specifically declares that “events such as weddings, lawn parties, and parties using amplified music shall not be permitted unless approved” as part of a zoning ‘special exception’ approved in advance by the county’s Board of Appeals.

(Better tell your visiting brother-in-law and his kids to turn off the mini-speakers hooked up to or streaming from their Ipods at the backyard barbeque?)

While the expansive approach of the proposed legislation could impact thousands of individual homeowners especially in the rural south county, some Veazey Cove area residents have told county officials, in emails and private meetings, that the usual means of enforcing peace and tranquility in their community—such as calling law enforcement in cases of loud music or rowdy behavior—haven’t worked on their rural road and broad regulations in the county are needed.

Cecil Times contacted a leader in the residents’ group but has not received a response to a request for comment.

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7 Responses to Cecil County Moves to Limit Private Vacation Home Rentals; Regs to Mandate Advance County OK

  1. Mike R on January 8, 2015 at 11:45 am

    Oh great– just another way for government to intrude into our private lives. Enforce the existing laws and the problem will be resolved. Again Tari Moore is flexing her muscles and penalizing many for one problem which can be dealt with on a one to one basis. So tired of this county trying to run our lives.

  2. Henry on January 8, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    Mike, your private life ends where it interferes with the rights of others to the peace, quiet, use and enjoyment of their properties.

    These laws are for people who are unwilling to participate in a civilized society and respect each other.

  3. Ronald Demmler on January 8, 2015 at 7:54 pm

    If the county has a hard time (as in can not do) anything about one place, how are they going to handle many places for doing the same thing?
    Why does the county government want to punish the many for one wayward person’s action?
    Any time there is a permit needed, there is a fee involved. Just another way for county to keep digging into our pockets.

  4. RBAker on January 8, 2015 at 8:08 pm

    So, 1 problem with 1 scofflaw in 1 place and now we have to create more laws that will not be followed by criminals? All this will do is raise revenue for government and restrict law abiding citizens from legally using their property.

  5. Bob Gatchel on January 9, 2015 at 6:22 pm

    I have to agree with RBaker above. Ok, so we have one particular person who is using their PRIVATE PROPERTY to their liking and we need to “enforce” how it’s used because of the complaints of a FEW people of this ENTIRE COUNTY. The needs of the many DO outweigh the needs of the few folks!

    OK, I understand that if the people who are using the property are loud, interfering with the “pursuit of happiness” of others and THEIR property, then EXISTING LAWS ENFORCING noise, free movement on roads, etc., SHOULD BE ENFORCED– and there is no need for another NEW LAW that (as said) will not be adequately enforced across the board, but open itself to “selective enforcement.”

    It’s always when we have a new “feel good law” that something more nefarious comes in– and many times the enforcement of the new laws often is meted out in a way that some are selected and others are not.

    I believe that this should die in committee and instead, the residents shouold seek redress with their local law enforcement (who seem to not be doing their duty in resolving the issues) instead of making another new “regulation” that could have affects on other residents of the community that are NOT having problems.

    What next? My neighbors don’t like my large vegetable garden? Do we need a law to limit gardens? Wait– that is happening in some areas of the country. We do not need slippery slope regulation that could affect how people use their private property.

  6. Joe C on January 9, 2015 at 11:13 pm

    Tari must have learned about this regulation when she met with Ms. Watson from Howard County– that’s right, the liberal who likes to take guns from people and raise taxes. Same one she [Moore] endorsed for Howard County executive– but the citizens of Howard County knew better than listen to another liberal from Cecil County and elected the Honorable Allan Kittleman.

    If there are court orders on this place, why not wait until it plays out in the courts instead of creating a mess for the rest of the county? What happened to the great “property rights” mantra that Tari likes to spout when she is violating state law by not submitting an adequate Tier Map– and cost the county millions in lost Rural Legacy funds.

  7. Harold McCanick on January 12, 2015 at 11:05 am

    Did anyone research and compare other counties regs on this issue? This legislation would outlaw some family reunions and backyard BarBQs! Why are some waterfront residents so territorial? They don’t want anybody on their river and now this bunch doesn’t want anybody on “their”road or in “their” neighborhood. If you want more privacy then move to a bigger piece of property.

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