SOUTH PORTLAND — The city clerk’s office has certified 1,000 petition signatures necessary to force a possible repeal referendum on new short-term rental regulations approved last month by the City Council.

That’s the number of valid registered-voter signatures needed to suspend the new rules from going into effect and move the petition forward for council reconsideration Tuesday, City Clerk Emily Scully said Thursday.

Preble Street resident Michael Frabotta turned in an estimated 1,484 petition signatures by Monday’s deadline in the hope of forcing the council to reverse its 6-1 vote. If the council decides not to overturn the controversial rules approved Feb. 20, the city will hold a referendum on the petition question at an upcoming election.

At the center of the sweeping regulations is a ban on unhosted stays in residential neighborhoods that aims to stem the trend of people buying and converting single-family homes into whole-house rentals.

There are 282 short-term rentals in South Portland offered on websites such as Airbnb and HomeAway, according to a recent count by Host Compliance, a third-party web service. About 200 of them are single-family homes that are not owner-occupied, allowing travelers to rent a whole house or apartment for a few days or a few weeks.

Frabotta and other petitioners say they’re trying to protect landowners’ rights and fighting for a better municipal review process. Supporters of the new regulations say they are trying to preserve affordable housing and protect neighborhoods from being overtaken by commercial home rentals they describe as mini-hotels.

While collecting signatures last weekend, Frabotta and other petitioners were confronted by residents who said they were “shadowing” petitioners because they were overheard giving false or misleading information about the regulations.

On Saturday, petitioners called police several times, prompting Officer Andrew Nelson to issue a cease harassment notice to Daniel Romano based on a complaint filed by Frabotta. On Monday, Frabotta took out a restraining order against Romano because, he said, he continued to feel threatened by Romano.

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

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