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Annapolis City Council will consider new requirements for non-owner-occupied short-term rentals in preservation zones

Annapolis Alderwoman Elly Tierney, D-Ward 1 stands on Cornhill Street in the neighbor she represents, Saturday, January 9, 2021. Tierney will introduce a bill Monday that would make non-owner-occupied short-term rentals a non-conforming use in the R2-NC and C1 and C1A conservation residence districts.
Annapolis Alderwoman Elly Tierney, D-Ward 1 stands on Cornhill Street in the neighbor she represents, Saturday, January 9, 2021. Tierney will introduce a bill Monday that would make non-owner-occupied short-term rentals a non-conforming use in the R2-NC and C1 and C1A conservation residence districts. (Paul W. Gillespie/Capital Gazette)

Some Annapolis property owners who don’t live in their homes but wish to rent them out as a short-term rental will have to apply for a special exception under a bill being considered by the Annapolis City Council at its Monday meeting.

Ordinance O-7-21 would make non-owner-occupied short-term rentals a non-conforming use in the R2-NC and C1 and C1A conservation residence districts. New permit seekers or those wishing to transfer an existing permit would be required to file a special exception application with the Planning and Zoning Department that the Annapolis Board of Appeals would review.

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Existing permits would be grandfathered in under the bill sponsored by Alderwoman Elly Tierney, D-Ward 1, who said it’s an attempt to address a rapid increase in non-owner-occupied short-term rentals in the conservation districts.

“Non-owner-occupied Short Term Rental Properties are income-producing properties that are used as commercial businesses and as such, should not be permitted in the R2-NC, C1, and C1-A Special Conservation Residence districts without special exception approval as is required of all other non-permitted uses,” the bill reads.

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The new ordinance comes a little more than a year after the council passed legislation regulating short-term rentals. It is meant to protect specific zones from non-conforming use because of their historic nature, Tierney said.

In January, she was granted a three-month moratorium on issuing and renewing such rental licenses to give her time to draft the legislation. The moratorium ends in April.

Before the pandemic in February 2020, 26 of the 60 non-owner-occupied short-term rentals in the city, or 43%, were located in R2-NC, C1 and C1A zoning districts, according to data provided by Host Compliance, a company that helps local governments implement and enforce short-term rental regulations.

A year later, about 37% of such rentals are concentrated in those three zones, the data shows.

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The city hired Host Compliance to monitor more than 60 short-term rental sites where Annapolis properties are listed. There are currently 155 active licenses in the city and another 56 under review or pending revisions, according to a report drafted by Planning and Zoning Director Sally Nash.

While R2-NC, C1 and C1A have a higher percentage of short-term rentals than other areas of the city, according to city rental license data, a fourth zone, Waterfront Maritime Industrial, also has a high concentration. This is due to an anomaly because there are only a handful of such zones in the city, according to Nash’s report.

In other business, the council will debate a set of pay recommendations for the mayor, city manager and City Council made by the citizen-led Council Compensation Commission. They include a raise for council members, who have said they are unlikely to approve any pay increases given the city’s budgetary constraints.

Elsewhere, an ordinance establishing a new city holiday honoring the abolition of slavery could be withdrawn.

Two bills will be up for a final vote. O-46-20 gives power to the new deputy city manager of resilience and sustainability to enforce the city’s polystyrene foam ban and other responsibilities. The other repeals an unconstitutional city law.

A resolution meant to encourage the Maryland General Assembly to allow non-motorized wheeled vehicles, like bicycles, on sidewalks by default could also be voted on.

A handful of new resolutions will be introduced, including one that would appoint a redistricting commission to review the city’s ward boundaries. Historically, this is done in the year after the U.S. Census is taken.

Two Tierney-led resolutions would allow itinerant merchants to do businesses in the Historic District during city events this year, including the Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival, City Dock Tango and the Maritime Republic of Eastport Tug of War. The other would let certain non-profit groups like the Boy Scouts sell food and drinks during the Annapolis Fall Boat Show in October.

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