CAPE ELIZABETH — The Town Council tied up the last loose end in the short-term rental saga Monday night, putting teeth into the rules governing excessive noise.

The council also approved an ordinance amendment that allows larger signs for some businesses operating in residential zones.

In a unanimous vote, councilors amended the “disturbing the peace” section of the miscellaneous offenses ordinance in an attempt to give police and the code enforcement officer more power to enforce the three-strikes rule in the short-term rental ordinance.

The amendment includes violations for “excessive volume of music” and sets quiet hours beginning at 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and from 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. It also holds property owners responsible for noise violations.

And although the new language was designed with short-term rentals in mind, it applies to everyone.

“This could be anyone who has a dog that habitually barks every night that the police may have to deal with, as well as, someone who just likes to play loud music every night at 2 a.m., whether it’s their own house or not, and they don’t have the good sense to put headphones on or close the window,” Town Manager Mike McGovern said. “This is good teeth for the local Police Department to deal with in the first instance and also compliments the work the council has done on short-term rentals.”

The new short-term rental ordinance took effect Dec. 14, 2012, and includes a $50 permit fee. It also requires rental property owners to adhere to several new regulations and go through a permitting process for leases shorter than 30 days.

Permits will only be granted after the code officer determines the rental property has adequate fire extinguishers, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, proof of sanitary waste disposal, appropriate exits, and evacuation plans.

The new ordinance also restricts the number of tenants to no more than two per bedroom and does not allow more than eight tenants in one property at any time on lots smaller than 30,000 square feet.

In a 6-0 vote, with one abstention, the council also amended the sign ordinance to allow businesses operating in residential zones to have the same size signs that are allowed in non-residential zones.

The issue was brought to the council by Ginger Brown, owner of the Veterinary and Rehabilitation Center of Cape Elizabeth, on Route 77. The center had changed the logo on the sign, which made the wording too small, Brown said.

The new ordinance allows signs up to 20 square feet and affects fewer than half a dozen grandfathered businesses allowed to operate in a residential zone. Two of the businesses already have signs that size, according to Town Planner Maureen O’Meara.

Councilor Jamie Wagner abstained from voting because he owns two businesses on Route 77, although he only disclosed the conflict when he was prompted by fellow councilors after the vote. He also asked questions about the ordinance before disclosing the conflict of interest. The issue was cleared up after McGovern explained that councilors are compelled by the rules to vote and cannot abstain unless they provide a valid reason, such as a conflict of interest.

Chris Bond, of Ocean House Road, who said he previously owned the veterinary center, spoke against the sign size increase and said that having a sign that large would negatively impact the residential feel of the neighborhood.

Will Graff can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @W_C_Graff.

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