Selbyville rental ordinance gets attention

The Selbyville Town Council held a public hearing on Monday, Feb. 2, to discuss the issue of short-term rentals within town limits. The hearing attracted a small crowd, drawing witnesses from the town itself and from surrounding areas. While the majority present seemed to be in favor of the new ordinance, there were a few opinions to the contrary.

The new ordinance amends Articles IV and V of the town’s 1996 zoning ordinance and, as proposed, will prohibit home owners from renting out their properties on a month-to-month basis, or for shorter terms. The new legislation will apply only to houses within the corporate limits of Selbyville, and restricts rental periods to 100 days or more. The ordinance will apply only to rentals and will not affect family members or house sitters who are staying in a residence for a short period.

Councilman Richard A. Duncan stated that the town’s belief is that “short-term rental tenants do not care about the rental properties. They often cause property damage and detract from both the property value of the house being rented and that of surrounding houses.”

The ordinance, as with other town laws, will be enforced by town police. Those who choose not to comply with the new legislation, should it be passed, will face a civil fine ranging between $50 and $200 per day in violation, as well as having their rental license revoked.

A number of citizens were less than excited about the idea, however, and presented their opinions at the hearing. One resident was extremely vocal for a good portion of the hearing, repeatedly pointing out that he felt the decision would, in fact, be more detrimental to his property value than protective. He voiced concern that inability to rent out his property on a short-term basis might have an effect on the resale value of his home and would make the house less appealing to future generations.

A second resident said he thought that the legislation was an infringement on his individual rights as an owner of private property. He argued that, while the town is public, the house and property are private. By restricting use of private property, he said, the new ordinance limits the owners’ freedom.

A third complainant had driven from out of town to be present at the hearing. She explained that she lives in Maryland and is the owner of two houses in Bayview. “One of those properties is a rental house, but is kept in excellent condition,” she said, also voicing opposition to the belief that short-term rentals destroy a property. She went on to explain that, “I have wanted to sell the home, but due to the economic situation I’ve been unable to find a buyer, or a seasonal renter. I’ve thought about letting the house go to foreclosure, but that would be extremely detrimental to the property value, so I opted to rent it out instead.”

The council on Monday decided it would be best to table the issue for another month, allowing time for discussion; and allowing town residents more time to investigate the new ordinance. The issue will be discussed again at next month’s council meeting, on March 2.

Mayor Clifton Murray opened Monday’s meeting with a proclamation for the Selbyville Community Club. The Community Club works with the Selbyville library, as well as the local schools, to support the arts for local children. They will be holding an event on the second Saturday in March featuring a display of children’s art. In honor of their efforts, and the event itself, Mayor Murray declared March an official month of art in Selbyville.

The council also noted Monday some complaints about properties being left in disrepair after construction of the Route 17/54 water and sewer project. Town engineer Erik Retzlaff was present and explained that he is still working to have repairs completed as soon as possible.

Retzlaff explained that, due to the winter months, it is becoming more and more difficult to restore vegetation; although preservation efforts are under way to make sure that the work that has been done will not deteriorate. He reminded council that the town is still retaining a portion of the resources for the work and will continue to hold onto said assets until the work is complete.

One resident expressed concern on Monday about parking around the post office. On Sundays, they said, the post office parking spots are flooded by people attending service at Salem United Methodist Church. Anyone attempting to use the post office is therefore unable to park anywhere nearby, they said. In particular, the presence of a black SUV that is regularly parked at a “15-minute parking” sign was noted. The complainant asked for increased enforcement of town parking laws, to which the police agreed.

Also on Feb. 1, Town Manager Bob Dickerson requested a $300 contribution from the town to support the Selbyville Community Club and their children’s art month. He also alerted council to $6,000 that will appear in the March budget proposal, to be set aside for the Old Timers’ Day budget.

Finally, Dickerson responded to last month’s proposal of town-wide recycling. The proposal was investigated, he said; however, as there is no longer a discount given for town-wide recycling, the town itself will not be pursuing any additions to their recycling plan. Residents are being invited to set up recycling on an individual basis or to use the public drop-off facilities already provided by the town.