CAPE ELIZABETH — Residents brought concerns over the town’s regulation of short-term rentals and the dog ordinance to the Town Council on Monday.

Town Manager Matt Sturgis also reported July 8 on the implementation of pay-and-display parking at Fort Williams Park. He said parking generated more than $33,000 in gross revenue during the first week of operation, or just over 8% of the $396,000 expected between now and Nov. 1.

Also on Monday, the 2019 Comprehensive Plan, which determines land use management and policies for the town, was approved 6-1 and will be submitted to the state for review. Councilor Christopher Straw found fault with several sections of the plan and did not support it.

A workshop on implementation of the proposed plan is scheduled for Sept. 4, according to the town website. After four workshops over the past year to draft the 10-year plan, the council hosted public hearings June 10 and July 8; no members of the public spoke at either hearing.

During Monday’s public comment, Richmond Terrace residents Tim Hebda and Barbara Cummings complained about a proliferation of short-term rentals.

“People are buying the properties just to have as rental properties,” Cummings said. “They don’t live in the neighborhood. They don’t live in the houses.”

Council Chairman James Garvin said residents should file complaints with Code Enforcement Officer Ben McDougal, who will then determine if property owners are not complying with the town’s ordinance.

“As the current ordinance is written and constructed, it’s a permitted use,” Garvin said. But hearing feedback from residents about the current policy is an important step to effect change, he said.

Councilor Caitlin Jordan responded that short-term visitors could be following the rules in the ordinance, but the problem might lie in the principle of short-term rentals in this neighborhood, not the violations.

Cape Elizabeth does not have a local ordinance that specifically limits the existence of short-term rental properties.

In 2012, 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 violations for “excessive volume of music.” The ordinance also sets quiet hours beginning at 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and from 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. It holds property owners responsible for noise violations.

“They could be doing everything right, everything according to the rules, and it’s still a problem,” Jordan said to summarize residents’ comments. “The issue is not violating the ordinance; the issue is perhaps the ordinance.”

Hebda explained that it feels like there’s no sense of community during the summer if nearby residents have week-to-week turnover.

South Portland and Portland have both enacted policies governing the increasing number of short-term rentals popularized by websites including Airbnb, Vrbo and HomeAway.

On Jan. 1, South Portland instituted a ban on non-owner-occupied, short-term rentals in strictly residential neighborhoods. Owners of allowable hosted and non-hosted home stays must register their properties with the city.

In Portland, residents must also register short-term rentals with the city. The city, which enacted its most recent short-term rental rules in 2017, has issued warnings this summer to residents who fail to register their properties, and now plans to enforce compliance.

Sturgis, the town manager, said he plans to speak with McDougal before next month’s council meeting to discuss complaints, how many short-term rentals exist in town, and how the prevalence of short-term properties has grown since the ordinance was amended.

The council also voted to set a public hearing on the dog ordinance for Aug. 12 that would ban leashed or unleashed dogs on town athletic fields at any time during the year. The ordinance changes will be voted on during the Sept. 9 meeting.

“It would be a stronger public hearing if we are of the position that dogs are going to be banned from athletic fields,” Jordan said. Councilors said they hope residents will turn out to discuss language in the dog ordinance draft.

In May, the Council referred amendments to the dog ordinance committee, and in June, the committee reviewed amendments and sent them back to the council. It recommended that the council discuss the presence of dogs on athletic fields, including off-leash areas at Fort Williams.

Resident Tom Meyers thanked the council and Police Department for enforcing recent ordinance changes regarding dogs at Cliff House Beach, and expressed the opinion dogs should not be allowed on athletic fields, leashed or unleashed, at any point during the year.

Current drafted updates to the ordinance categorize town properties by levels of dog management: Category 1 does not allow dogs, Category 2 allows only leashed dogs, and Category 3 allows dogs on leash or under voice control.

At Cliff House Beach, which has multiple category dog rules, dogs are not allowed in the summer between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., are allowed after 6 p.m. on leash, and are allowed off-leash before 9 a.m. and in the off-season.

The council decided to set the August public hearing so residents can discuss the proposed amendment to the dog ordinance.

“I just want to be clear that this is just, as you noted, to increase interest,” Councilor Christopher Straw said. “It does not mean that we’re necessarily voting ‘yes’ at the end of the day on this.”

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