Coolbaugh Township Adopts Short Term Rental Ordinance
COOLBAUGH – Coolbaugh Township finally has their “Short Term Rental” ordinance. Progress on the measure, in the works since about mid-2019, was interrupted by the COVID shutdowns and restrictions. The public hearing on the ordinance was held on August 18, following which it was unanimously adopted by the Board of Supervisors. They are now working to hire an enforcement officer and set permit fee levels.
The new ordinance regulates transient rentals of fewer than 30 consecutive days in homes which are not permanently occupied by the owner or long-term tenant. It is the latest in a series of measures adopted by Monroe County municipalities to address quality of life issues surrounding the notorious “party houses” populating third-party booking sites such as AirBnB. Supervisors asked for the ordinance in response to resident complaints about excessive noise, parking, litter, and concerns regarding septic capabilities, security, public safety, and trespass.
Those concerns were echoed at the August public hearing. Dan Marra, an Arrowhead Lakes home owner, told the board he was concerned that many short-term rental properties were over-extending the on-lot septic systems. Coolbaugh’s ordinance now requires the home owner to prove that the on-lot system is capable of handling the burden of the capacity they seek. This includes obtaining a written evaluation from a septic professional and proof that the system was emptied within the last three years.
Lorraine Kraus, Stillwater Lakes, said she was concerned about landlords trying to count closets as bedrooms and overcrowding the homes. Under the Coolbaugh measure home owners will need to prove that their property was originally licensed for the number of bedrooms claimed, and bedrooms are required to be a minimum of 70 square feet. They are also precluded from advertising more bedrooms than authorized.
In total, the board heard from 14 residents and interested parties during the public hearing on the ordinance. Many, like Tom Filla of Arrowhead Lakes, praised the board’s work on the ordinance. Following the public comment period, which lasted an efficient 53 minutes, the board convened in regular session. Supervisor Alma Ruiz-Smith made the motion to adopt the short-term rental ordinance, which was seconded by Supervisor Tony Lamantia. The board then unanimously adopted it.
The new law requires that the owner of a short term rental apply for and obtain an annual license. Short term rentals existing when the ordinance takes effect have 90 days to obtain the license; new rentals may not operate until the license is obtained.
As part of the licensing process, the enforcement officer will, among other things, verify that the property is permitted for the number of bedrooms claimed and has sufficient capacity to handle the anticipated septic flow. Total occupancy is limited to two people per bedroom, plus four. Day guests are limited to 75% of total occupancy.
The owner is responsible to ensure that the guests do not disrupt the peace of the neighborhood, and to advise the guests of the rules, including occupancy and vehicle limits, noise restrictions, and the like. Violations can carry fines of up to $1,000 for each day the violation exists, plus court costs and attorney fees. An owner with three violations in any 12-month period will have the license revoked for one year and cannot rent during that time. A fourth violation will be grounds for permanent revocation.
Owners are required to carry $500,000 in liability insurance, have county and state hotel tax licenses, and to designate a contact person to be responsive to the township in the event of problems with the property. The contact person, who can be the owner, must be able to get to the property within two hours of notification, and have the authority to resolve any issues on behalf of the owner.
The board expects to set the license and renewal fees at the first regular meeting in October, according to board president Bill Weimer.