Ocean City Today

Real estate agents against R-1A zone

Readers' Forum
Oct 26, 2017



printed 10/27/2017



As has been reported [last] week by your paper, the Town of Ocean City has included a new zoning district – R-1A – in its draft Comprehensive Plan update to pave the way for a future with no short-term rentals in the R-1 district.

The Coastal Association of Realtors would like to express to your readership the severity of this ban and how it may impact housing options when vacationing in Ocean City, as well as the overall economy on the Lower Eastern Shore and the right in this country to own and operate private property.

What’s on the table now would only impact the R-1 district. But who’s to say that Ocean City will not decide to eliminate short-term rentals from all of its residential districts, thus limiting housing options for vacationers, particularly those who like to vacation with a large family and might prefer to rent a house, rather than several hotel rooms or condominiums.

R-1A sends a message to vacationers that while Ocean City wants their patronage, they may only stay in certain parts of the town, because full-time residents need to be protected from the tourism element. It’s not a very positive, welcoming message.

The shore depends heavily on Ocean City to draw in visitors who spend their money at local businesses.

Ocean City’s real estate industry is extremely important to the members of our association, as many people come here and decide to make substantial investments in a new primary residence, a second home, a retirement home, and/or a rental property.

Last year, our members sold over $361.7 million in residential real estate in Ocean City. Obviously, people want to invest in Ocean City and that investment benefits many people, ranging from the Realtor to the home inspector to the restaurant owner to the boutique shop, and beyond.

Limiting the usage of R-1 properties removes buyers from the pool of folks looking for investment opportunities in a resort town. We certainly want that resort town to be Ocean City, and not a resort in another state.

There are currently more than 150 rentals in Ocean City’s R-1 neighborhoods. These properties were purchased with the understanding that they could be operated as short-term rentals.

Taking that ability away from the owners is pulling the rug out from under their investment, as well as a clear violation of their right to rent their private property.

Approving this rental ban in Ocean City constructs the framework for government overregulation across the Shore and across the state.

Other municipalities can reference this policy to implement restrictions in surrounding rental markets, i.e. student housing needs in Salisbury and Princess Anne.

Rentals are an important housing option for students, transient residents, low to middle income residents, and more. We may be talking about vacation rentals today, but it’s a slippery slope that could end up impacting other types of rentals in the future.

We are asking the Town of Ocean City to remove R-1A from its Comprehensive Plan and continue to focus on education and enforcement, which has been working.

The article in your paper was very informative, but it did not reference a very significant decrease in noise complaints since 2014, which several Ocean City officials have attributed to improved conditions in residential neighborhoods. R-1A is not needed and is a disservice to your readers.

Don Bailey

President, Coastal Association of Realtors

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