Should Mount Desert regulate weekly rentals?

MOUNT DESERT — Vacation rentals – also known as weekly rentals – is something Bar Harbor has been regulating to some extent since 2006.  

Several amendments have added restrictions and requirements to the vacation rentals ordinance over the years, and in November, residents will vote on another set of proposed changes. 

Now, with the proliferation of vacation rentals in Mount Desert, at least one member of the Board of Selectmen thinks its time for that town to consider some type of regulation. 

“We all know we have a depleted year-round housing stock, which is getting worse all the time,” Selectman Martha Dudman said. “It’s very difficult for people to find year-round housing on this island and, increasingly, in the town of Mount Desert. The prices are high. There is very little to rent. And the rentals that are available are often seasonal or even weekly.” 

Dudman said Mount Desert should find out what can be learned from other towns that are dealing with the same issue. She and Town Manager Durlin Lunt suggested that the Planning Board or the Land Use Zoning Ordinance advisory group could look into the options for regulating weekly rentals and perhaps draft an ordinance. 

Kathy Miller, executive director of Mount Desert 365, which is working to increase the amount of affordable housing, said not all short-term rentals are a problem. 

“If a homeowner is renting out their home or a portion of their home because it provides income that allows them to stay there, that’s one thing,” she said. 

“But if somebody who does not live here sees value in buying a property and turning it into a business, I’m not sure how that benefits the town. It doesn’t provide year-round residence. It’s a business that we’re not taxing. And it takes housing off the market that otherwise might be used by people year-round. 

“It’s inconsistent with the town’s goals, as stated in the comprehensive plan, of bringing back the year-round community.” 

Miller said MD365 gets calls all the time from people looking for housing. 

“We know that all kinds of businesses, whether they are seasonal or year-round, are having trouble attracting people, and in great part because of the housing shortage,” she said. “So, anything that chips away at the availability of affordable year-round housing is not good for the town.” 

Dudman expressed the same opinion at Monday’s selectmen’s meeting: “If there are homes that are being bought purely as investments, that’s not going to help our island remain a place that we love. It’s being hollowed out.” 

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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