News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, February 8, 2018
Citizen raises concerns over rental registration

by Anne Berleant

A potential ordinance that would require rental property owners to register with the town, and the rental registration form itself, came under criticism at the February 5 selectmen’s meeting.

“It’s an issue of how far the town should go to control citizens,” Pär Kettis said.

But Chairman Gus Basile noted that “We have ordinances on everything,” and that first, a public hearing will be held, and second, any ordinance requires town meeting approval.

Drafts of the ordinance and registration form are currently shuttling between Town Manager James Goodson and the town attorney.

“This [form] is being heavily updated, right now,” Selectman Colin Powell said.

The attempt to create a rental registry stems from citizen complaints over vandalism and disruptive behavior, an increase in Airbnb rentals, and the discovery that some rental properties don’t meet federal and state fire safety requirements.

“Each rental house has a unique impact on the community, so the person who owns the rental house should be made aware of the responsibilities,” said Goodson, who was not present at the meeting. “What we’re trying to do is create a registry to make sure that everybody is complying with state and federal law, with minimum [fire safety] standards, and just having the information available in case we have to respond.”

Kettis said that law enforcement and the town fire chief were the appropriate agencies to handle fire safety and disorderly behavior.

“To have a registry of those properties that are rental properties would help with enforcement,” Goodson said.

The proposed ordinance and registration form will go through an existing land use study group, then “users, Realtors, and rental agents,” and finally a public hearing, likely in March before town meeting, Goodson said.

But in Kettis’s view, “Those who don’t rent [are being asked] to approve a document about those who rent. It doesn’t just hit students, it hits everybody.”

“Keep working with us,” Basile said.

In other business, selectmen approved a revised transfer station fee schedule that eliminates some fees and changes others. Notably, as of February 5, no fee will be charged for computers, printers, computer monitors, TVs and most car batteries.

Selectmen also accepted $23,179 in donations to Castine Fire Rescue Volunteer Association.

The board will next meet on Tuesday, February 20, at 4 p.m. in town hall.