Friday, December 6, 2013
CAPE ELIZABETH - Waves crashing against the rocky coastline made the only sound on a recent afternoon spent among a cluster of high-end homes overlooking Pond Cove.
Rather than rent rooms in a bed and breakfast, many people are renting out this house at 5 Sea Barn Road in Cape Elizabeth for their wedding parties.
Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer
Such serenity has gotten harder to come by in the neighborhood off Shore Road, where some houses are rented out weekly during the summer, often to large groups and occasionally for major events, like the wedding last weekend at a home on Sea Barn Road.
Complaints about out-of-state cars parked along narrow roads and frequent, loud parties at rented homes in town have led some Cape Elizabeth officials to question whether the properties should be regulated.
The Town Council is scheduled to decide on Monday whether its Ordinance Committee should consider setting guidelines for short-term rentals in residential areas.
"We're not talking about prohibiting anyone from renting their property," Town Manager Mike McGovern said this week. Rather, he said, councilors may consider limiting the allowed uses of the properties or requiring additional fire safety measures at some types of rental homes.
"If someone's advertising a house that has nine bedrooms and sleeps 22 . . . at what point do you want to make sure the exits are marked?" asked McGovern.
If the town eventually adopts such an ordinance, it will join a short list of Maine municipalities, including Saco and Old Orchard Beach, that regulate rental properties.
David Ginn, who owns the home on Sea Barn Road that hosted the wedding last weekend, said he's surprised that the town would consider imposing restrictions.
"There's thousands of vacation homes in Maine," he said.
Ginn declined to say how long he has rented out the home and how often he lives there, but said it is his primary residence.
The six-bedroom oceanfront home, which is assessed for taxes at nearly $1.5 million and rents for as much as $4,500 per week, is one of 24 houses in Cape Elizabeth that are listed on a rental website called HomeAway.
Ginn said he has strict parking requirements for renters and prefers not to have weddings at the house, though he advertises it as "perfect for family gatherings."
Renters rotate in and out of two nearby homes, and the groups have gotten bigger in recent years, said Mary Volin, a longtime resident of Lawson Road.
"I don't feel like I know who should be in my neighborhood and who shouldn't," she said. "It's giving it a whole different character."
Ensuring that residents aren't disturbed by neighboring rental homes should be the goal of the guidelines, said Town Councilor Sara Lennon, who proposed that the town consider creating rules.
"They should be able to rent out their house, but you should also protect the rights of the nearby property (owners)," she said.
Lennon said she takes issue with the discrepancy between the strict requirements for running a bed-and-breakfast in town and the complete lack of regulations for renting out a house.
McGovern, the town manager, said there is a fine line between renting a house and running a business. If the property is marketed as a venue for large events, he said, that could be crossing the line.
"I don't think anyone objects when someone next door has a family wedding," said McGovern. "If that starts happening next door to you every weekend, you begin to scratch your head."
Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: