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Short-term rentals rules go into effect

New measure instituted after vote to delay fails

By Jack Chavez, Staff Writer

Berlin’s short-term rental ordinance will be moving forward tomorrow as scheduled.

On Monday, the Berlin Town Council listened to a letter sent to Planning Director Dave Engelhart — read to the council by Engelhart — from a nonresident who said instituting the new rule now could have severe financial consequences.

The council discussed that matter before Councilmember Jack Orris moved to push the measure’s start date back to the day after Labor Day, but his motion died for lack of a second.

The effect of that with little time left on the calendar was to confirm the rule’s July 1 implementation, which was agreed to in March when the ordinance was passed.

The ordinance is meant to protect the quality of life in Berlin by limiting the extent to which out-of-towners can buy up property in the town to rent them to vacationers.

Engelhart has said at past meetings that he worries about how the town looks with the ordinance coming right at the height of the tourist season, a sentiment that Mayor Zack Tyndall echoed on Monday.

Engelhart estimated that about 15 short-term rentals are operating in Berlin today.

In the letter that Engelhart read aloud to the council, the property owner, a resident of Silver Spring, said they were close to retirement and that the short-term rental is a retirement home in waiting for them in a few years. The new ordinance, however, will make it hard for them to maintain the income necessary to stay on that trajectory.

Orris floated the idea that maybe January is too far out but it wouldn’t be unreasonable to set it to September or October.

But Councilmember Shaneka Nichols was not especially moved by the plight of the short-term renters.

“Look, if we say October then the next letter’s going to come, ‘Oh my gosh, people love Berlin at Christmas.’ Then it’s going to be December. Then in December, ‘Oh my gosh we love Berlin in January. We love July, we love August!’ They love Berlin all the time,” she said.

“I’m not being disrespectful to the lady who wrote the letter because when I did the math in my head and the timeframe we’re talking about, she had a fabulous run with her short-term rental, a fabulous run. I’m not trying to be ignorant, that’s not at all where I’m coming from but in the time she went from year-round rentals to the time this ordinance came into play, a minimum of five years, a fabulous timeframe and she’s talking about getting that much closer to retirement. When they started doing rentals, they were getting that much closer to retirement. Then they decided to do short-term rentals and it’s that much closer to retirement. I’m not rude here but when are we retiring?”

“This one for me, and maybe it’s just the hour of the day, but every day it’s a different scenario. Somebody’s going to change this or ‘Hey guess what my son is 18 now so my second house is going to become their primary residence.’ Guys, stop playing games. The ordinance is here, it’s in place.”

Before the council’s votes were cast, Councilmember Jay Knerr asked Engelhart if he was prepared to implement the ordinance on July 1. Engelhart affirmed that he was, since as far as his department has known since March that was always going to be the day.

This story appears in the print version of the Bayside Gazette on June 30, 2022.