SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council approved a modified version of controversial short-term rental regulations Tuesday night that would still ban unhosted Airbnb-style accommodations in all residential neighborhoods.

The council voted 5-2 on a first reading of retooled restrictions that would allow hosted or owner-occupied short-term rentals in all zoning districts. A final vote is scheduled for July 17.

After hearing familiar testimony for and against the amended rules, the council acted primarily to stop single-family homes that aren’t owner-occupied from being bought up and rented out for less than 30 consecutive days at a time.

“The council has to do something,” said Mayor Linda Cohen, noting that homeowners in residential zones “didn’t expect that the house next door would be rented out every other weekend.”

Councilors Eben Rose and Adrian Dowling voted against the ordinance proposal. Rose said the city should simply enforce existing ordinances to prohibit non-owner-occupied short-term rentals.

Dowling said he’s concerned about parking requirements that might exclude smaller operators, a ban on short-term rentals in multi-family buildings in commercial zones, and licensing fees that might not cover the city’s administration costs. The modified proposal doesn’t indicate what licensing fees would be.


In February, following months of intense debate, the council adopted short-term rental restrictions that were among the most restrictive in Greater Portland.

The rules were short-lived, however, as councilors repealed the regulations in April after opponents collected enough petition signatures to force them to reconsider the rules or send them to referendum.

Among the changes approved late Tuesday night:

• Short-term rentals in residential districts would be limited to hosted stays in dwellings of one to four units. Operators would have to prove a property is their primary residence under the state’s homestead tax exemption. Unhosted stays would be limited to detached single-family dwellings in commercial zones.

• Short-term rentals would be allowed to have as many as two adult guests per bedroom, with a maximum of six guests per house. The original ordinance capped the total number of guests at two adults.

• Short-term rentals would be required to have at least four off-street parking spaces, including garage spaces, a new stipulation that some said would exclude many homeowners. City officials said the parking requirement was added because the city couldn’t effectively regulate each rental’s impact on street parking.


• Owners of two- or three-unit apartment buildings in residential zones could operate one unit as a short-term rental, as long as they lived in one of the other units; owners of four-unit buildings could operate two apartments as short-term rentals if they lived on the premises.

• Short-term rentals would be prohibited in apartment buildings of five units or more, as well as in non-residential buildings or in detached accessory buildings, camper vans, tents, trailers or mobile homes. Authorized accessory dwelling units, such as in-law apartments or guest houses, could be used as short-term rentals only when the homeowner is present.

• To prevent smaller apartment buildings from being converted to condominiums, short-term rentals would be explicitly prohibited in two- to four-unit buildings where the units are owned individually. In general, the ordinance would prohibit short-term rentals in multi-unit condo buildings but allow them in detached single-family condos.

• Owners of detached single-family homes could rent their houses for at least seven days and as many as 14 days per year when they are away. The council dropped an initial ban on homeowners renting out their houses while on vacation.

• All short-term rentals would have to be inspected, insured and licensed by the city by the time the ordinance went into effect Jan. 1, 2019.

As of last November, there were 282 short-term rentals in South Portland listed on multiple websites, and 75 percent of them were for entire homes, according to the city’s online consultant.


Andrew Kalloch, an Airbnb representative, offered additional statistics Tuesday in written testimony against the modified restrictions.

Kalloch said there were 170 active Airbnb hosts in South Portland in 2017, and they welcomed 11,400 guests. The average booking guest was 37 years old, the average group size was 2.7 people and the average stay was 2.5 nights.

Kalloch and others who spoke at Tuesday’s hearing objected to the occupancy and parking requirements, as well as the ban on apartment dwellers renting out rooms in their homes. And some continued to question why the city has refused to form a committee of stakeholders to help draft the rules.

“You haven’t given us the opportunity to work through this as neighbors,” said John Murphy, who operates a short-term rental property on Willard Beach. “You’ve had a predisposed plan to push this through.”

Supporters of the regulations thanked the council for pressing ahead despite continued opposition.

Peter Stanton, of Deake Street, said he believed the council had made “serious compromises” in the modified restrictions. He said the rules would stop the “investor class” from buying single-family homes to operate as hotels, but they would allow owner-occupied short-term rental operators who were just trying to make an “honest buck.”


CORRECTION: This story was updated at 2:35 p.m. on June 7, 2018, to reflect a date change by city officials for the final vote on the regulations.

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