Hope Rockport residents educate themselves about this coming disaster

Sun, 01/24/2021 - 1:00pm
The most current draft of Rockport’s proposed short-term rental ordinance, dated January 25, 2021, reads “Among The stated goals of these restrictions is to affirm “standards of habitability and life safety.” 
Do the makers of this document think we residents don’t know how to live safely and in habitable conditions? Are they kidding?  How insulting. Believe me, we are a well-educated, responsible, intelligent, comparatively successful citizenry. 
The writers think these regulations and rules will “protect renters and preserve long-term rentals”. 
If you have ever done any rentals of any length, you know that short term rentals have nothing to do with long term rentals. 
Most short term landlords are renting their personal residence for a month or two during the summer. It is a definite apples to oranges comparison. 
This is the best: ”maintain the quiet enjoyment of residences in Rockport’s neighborhoods.” 
Section 2 states that this whole movement is “in the best interests of the Town.” 
It is obvious that these proposals are in response to a few residents who don’t like to see strangers in the Village, too many cars going past their house, or a car parked too close to their driveway. 
Oh, yes, some of these proponents also don’t like to talk to their neighbors about an issue that bothers them. How strange. 
Short term renters provide plenty of commercial and civic activity to the Town, both as visitors at restaurants, shops, gasoline stations, grocery stores, concerts and so much more. In fact, many, many of these visitors become owners of property here, which benefits the Town in the same ways all residents do. 
The authors of this document have the hubris to assume that they know what is best for us. Well, there are 37 pages of letters from residents regarding the opinion of townspeople about short-term rental restrictions on the town website, rockportmaine.gov
With those letters, there are eight voices of support of restrictions, and 25 voices expressing opposition to regulating short-term rentals. 
In addition, we have asked repeatedly about complaints to the police about these short-term renters, with the response that there is no information on this statistic. 
Talk about denial, the proposed ordinance seeks to end our successful, historical and hard won heritage of welcoming visitors from away. Instead they would imagine that we would become a community of long-term residents who will fill to capacity every town committee and board and will offer affordable housing so others less fortunate are able to live here. 
Meanwhile, the rest of us struggle to pay our real estate taxes and keep our loved ones warm and well-fed. 
By disallowing short-term rentals, you are not encouraging long-term rentals. That does not even begin to touch the aberrant idea that Rockport people don’t welcome humanity from outside the state. That is a choice we residents refuse to be part of, never, no how. 
A mistake is made by the drafters of the ordinance in considering our hosting to be a commercial use. It is not. Commercial use is defined by the town as: “the non-residential use..., the intent of which activity is the production of income from the buying and selling of goods and/or services, exclusive of rental of residential buildings and or dwelling units.” 
The Board is set to change this definition, within these restrictions, so that, “Commercial use shall include the activity of Non- Owner occupied Short Term Rental.” See Part 1, number 1, of the latest reimagining of these restrictions. 
It is ludicrous to say any short-term rental is a commercial rental when long term rentals are not classified similarly. 
Another mistake on the part of the Board is the requirement to have a sign at our home with our “registration number”. 
Again, our ordinances state: “temporary signs... shall be removed by the owner or agent when the property is rented or leased.” Oh, and also, we would be assigned a registration number, which we must include in, among things, our emails! 
So let’s see, we must place a sign on our property with a registration number, we must take it down when a visitor is in residence. Furthermore, we must make our homes available to Scott Bickford for inspections of the number of people sleeping in each bedroom, our sewer systems must be able to accommodate the number of people using the bathrooms, and Scott must make sure that, if a tenant leaves early, that no other tenant fills that space. 
Oh yes, we can have one sign on our property identifying the property as a short-term rental. The idea that an owner would advertise a short-term rental with a sign on the front lawn is laughable. 
I’ve never observed such a lack of class on any home in Rockport Village. 
Folks, the rest of this preposterous scenario pictures us residents as scam artists, cheaters, irresponsible rule violators and generally disrespectful citizens. 
Oh yes, did I mention the fines ready to be levied for our malfeasance? 
Moreover, these rules will apply to our Village, serviced by a wastewater system that increased charges to us in July of 2020 by 42.6% for the same waste. 
As an epilogue, our efforts to support ourselves and our families is further threatened by a minimal majority of the Select Board by this proposed ordinance. 
My hope is that all of us residents and taxpayers in the Harbor Village District, the Village District, the Residential Coastal District, the Modified mixed business and residential district, the Rural District, the Rockport Hospital and Resort District, and the Downtown District, (we are almost all affected by this foolishness) educate themselves about this coming disaster. 
Marsha Steinglass lives in Rockport