We have a huge problem as do countless other towns and cities all over America.  This is primarily addressed to the people of Rangeley, but if you are a visitor, it is good to know about what I am going to write.  I knew nothing of this a month ago, and now I know a lot.

Let’s assume you own a house and it is in a residential zone.  You are at ease because no commercial use of any land near you is permitted.  You know your neighbors and they know you. All is well. A bomb is about to go off.  Your neighbor leaves his house and moves to Florida. He does not care about his old neighbors.  He only cares about money and he has a plan that will make him plenty of money. He gets a large company to oversee the short-term rental of his home.  Renters come in for as short a term as three nights and it is booked solid for the year. Not possible, you say. The problem with our zoning ordinance is that commercial use excludes real estate.  So anything goes with real estate. I am sure when real estate was excluded, no one could foresee what would happen. As soon as the house next door becomes a short-term lease house, the serenity and value of your house is gone.  Admittedly, the neighbor who left and lives elsewhere makes a lot of money, but it is at the expense of those that are left behind “holding the bag.” It is very controversial, and towns are struggling with it. South Portland recently flat out banned them and most towns have strict registration requirements that make it quite difficult to do.  We have nothing regulating it and this problem is soon going to invade Rangeley.

I have done my part.  I am going to meet with the town manager and have prepared a written review of the issues and that will be given to the town council.  I have strongly urged the council to pass a six-month moratorium on short term rentals until they can fully review this issue. This pox has serious implications for any town, but especially a quiet, peaceful town like Rangeley.

The only positive thing that can be said about the practice is that some few make a lot of money but most of the remainders lose a fortune.  Your neighborhood, that you once loved is destroyed. Trying to sell your house is impossible because no one wants to buy that mess! You woke up and a Motel 6 was your new neighbor.  You complain bitterly to your town, but because they did not have their ducks in order, it is too late. Short term renters are notorious for partying and noise making, and now you hate your neighborhood.  For towns that are not short of rooms, the Inns and Motels lose revenue to this short-term rental of houses. They have to “play by the rules” including fire codes and paying a nine per cent tax to the state, but these residential owners who avail themselves of this, don’t even consider it.  There is clearly a pox on your house.

What is even more aggravating is that most of the time it is non-residents who do this.  They only care about money and have no interest in the area they poison. South Portland shut them down and an owner whose arrogance knows no bounds is raising money on line to fight the town.  Not lost on me is the fact that she lives in Cape Elizabeth and had the house she rents in South Portland! This is a typical example of people not living near their rental unit.

I have studied a lot of statutes that regulate this industry and have come up with suggestions for Rangeley.  I would love it if they simply amended the zoning regs to state that short term rental of real estate is a commercial use.  That would do it, but if we choose to regulate it, here are some suggestions:

1.Determine what a short-term rental is.  60 days is common.

2. Establish a minimum stay—a lot say three days.

3. The lessor must reside in the unit for at least six months of the year.  This gets rid of the buyer from afar. If you live there, you are going to be more conscious of what impact it is having on the area.  As I like to say “you have some skin in the game.”

4.The owner must own the access to the unit.  He cannot use an easement that he has. That is a no brainer and allowing an easement to be overburdened is illegal anyway.

5. Unit must be on public sewer.  That too is a no brainer. Most residences have small septic systems.  When the unit is short term rented, it can’t help but overburden the system and the town is powerless to control that.

6 No more than six permits can be issued in any calendar year.

7. Verify that the state will get its room tax.

These restrictions have some serious teeth and that is for a reason.  A lot of towns charge a fee 0f $250. We need to get this right or the pox will be on all of us.

MARKET REPORT

The saying is “go away in May”, but especially when our president is placing tariffs on a lot of countries.  The market has really tanked—all because of the tariffs. Now in a move that I have never seen before, as the market hit freefall, the Fed talked about lowering interest rates, The Fed is supposed to be independent and this guy is propping up the market with talks of lower interest rates.  We have full employment, higher wages, and tariff induced high prices coming across the board! It’s got all the makings of runaway inflation—and if that hits, it is hard to stop. I don’t get any of this. Tariffs, lowering interest to seduce the market. It is all crazy.


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