Freeport Town Council approved, 6-1, an ordinance regulating short-term rentals — such as Airbnb and VRBO — Tuesday.

The new rules require owners to register their short-term rentals and limit how many rentals can operate in town.

In addition, no more than 16 people can attend any gathering or event held at a short-term rental, though  bookings exceeding that limit made prior to April 27 will be grandfathered in.

Bookings are also limited to a maximum of two guests per bedroom with no more than two additional overnight guests. The ordinance also addresses safety, noise, trash and parking issues and requires that an emergency contact person be available to respond to complaints within 60 minutes at any time of day.

“I still think it’s too restrictive,” Councilor Chip Lawrence said, voting in opposition. “It has gotten much better, but I still think there is work to do.”

“I’m against the ordinance, I’ve been renting my family property for many years, about 15,” Freeport resident Susan Murphy said. “I think there may be a lot of people out there who are short-term rental owners who don’t know about this.”

Freeport resident Joyce Veilleux was in favor of the ordinance.

“Unfortunately, there are properties in Freeport that are un-hosted and they don’t seem to care about the effect that their guests may have on the neighbors,” Veilleux said. “This ordinance will give the neighbors the opportunities to resolve these issues with the town’s help.”

One owner and operator of a local bed and breakfast, Kelleigh Dulany said in an interview last week that short-term rentals have had an estimated 20%-30% impact on her business’s net income.

According to AirDNA, a website that provides vacation rental data, Freeport currently has 63 active rentals — a number that increases during the summer months. 75% of the active rentals are listed on Airbnb and 9% are listed on VRBO.

Town Manager Peter Joseph cited an estimate of around 150 short-term rentals in Freeport during peak season.

Joseph said in an interview last week that Freeport has received an estimated 30 complaints from various houses and neighborhoods regarding Airbnbs.

The ordinance asks that short-term renters pay a $100 fee and to be registered by July 1. Fines for not registering will not begin until Sept. 1.

According to a report from the Portland Press Herald, around 542,000 people stayed overnight with Airbnb in 2019, which is triple the amount from the prior four years. This translates to around $91 million in earnings for Maine Airbnb hosts.

Cumberland County made up the largest portion of Airbnb guests in the state at 191,000.

Freeport is not alone in adopting an ordinance that regulates short-term rentals. Other popular Maine tourist destinations such as Kennebunkport, Bar Harbor, Portland, Cape Elizabeth, South Portland and Rockland have also passed or are in the process of adopting similar regulations.


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