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by Sharon Bray
Maine Maritime Academy Castine officials meeting December 19, agreed to work together on problems related to students renting houses in town.
MMA President Bill Brennan repeated an assertion he has made before in public meetings: “This is about private citizens involved in private enterprise.” Nonetheless, he said the academy would “work with the town on ways to approach” the situation.
Brennan noted that college towns nationwide have rules for their students who live off-campus, but he added, “the academy has no ability to make ordinances.”
Castine’s zoning ordinance, currently under study for revision, could better regulate rentals or multiple renters in a single dwelling, Brennan noted.
Selectman Gus Basile read from an email he read at a selectmen’s meeting December 17. The writer, whose name Basile declined to disclose, said rentals are “big business” in Castine. “They get the money and we get the problems,” he added.
Some landlords rent to students and live in their houses seasonally. Others, said Town Manager Dale Abernethy, own multiple buildings strictly to rent all year.
Student rental problems often involve parking space. A current example mentioned at the meeting is a house on Court Street rented to four students with four vehicles. The students asked selectmen to waive parking rules to park two vehicles beside the street and to move for snow clearing.
After granting a “temporary waiver,” Basile and Selectman Peter Vogell measured the driveway and revoked the waiver, telling the students they could fit four cars in the driveway, park in paces at the town dock, or pay a fee to park in a lot at the academy.
Vogell asked Brennan to see what he could learn about how other communities deal with these issues.
“Do we want to get into policing every house in town?” Vogell asked.
Brennan agreed that MMA and the town are very limited in how to enforce housing rules.
Landlords could be a help, but many do not inform renters about town regulations, according to Abernethy.
MMA Vice President Jeff Loustaunau said all students who move off campus are required to attend an informational meeting, and most do. “We go over the rules we are aware of,” Loustaunau said.
With regular classes resuming January 14, Loustaunau described student returns as turning the Castine Road to “one way, inbound” for much of Sunday, January 13.
Town-gown meetings were scheduled for January 23 and February 20, continuing to be held at the academy until Emerson Hall renovations are complete.