Local Governments Across the Nation Respond to Airbnb & Short-Term Rental Challenge

A Sustainable Cities Network article (2018-07-18) highlighted the actions some local governments have taken across the United States in response to the burgeoning growth of Airbnb and similar short-term rental models. Short-term rentals, such as those offered through services like Airbnb, offer both positives and negatives. They can encourage tourism and provide homeowners with extra income, both of which can help a local economy. However, they can also attract commercial investors and when the concentration of short-term rentals reaches a tipping point, actually destabilize residential neighborhoods, reduce long-term rental options, and threaten jobs in the local hospitality industry.

MACo has supported addressing both the regulation and taxation issues posed by short-term rental properties. The Maryland General Assembly has considered legislation on short-term rentals for several years but nothing has passed to date. The article looked at how several local governments in other states have tried to address this challenging and complex issue.

Boston (Massachusetts)

The article focused on the efforts of Boston, which saw a dramatic spike in commercial investors purchasing residential properties to use as short-term rentals starting around 2013. The issue was brought into focus after a coalition of advocacy groups provided research from the University of Massachusetts showing the increasingly negative effects the short-term rental trend was having on the city’s workers and residents.  After being presented with the data, the city’s elected officials took action:

In June 2018, the Boston City Council passed an ordinance eliminating investor unit listings and regulating other short-term residential rentals. It established a registration and data collection system that will allow the city to more effectively monitor the impacts of this industry on its residential housing supply. “At the same time, it continues to allow owner-occupants to rent out extra rooms on AirBnB for as many as 365 days, or their entire home while on vacation,” the ordinance explains.

[Fenway Community Development Corporation representative Colleen] Fitzpatrick says that having data about who owns properties and how they are managed as rentals is a very important piece of the puzzle for city leaders to possess. It would be helpful, but not practical, to access the databases of companies such as AirBnB, which has a very sophisticated registration platform. Without access to information, it can be difficult for communities to move from registration to enforcement.

Fitzpatrick also noted in the article that the purpose of the ordinance was not to eliminate short-term rentals but rather find the balance between allowing short-term rentals and having stable communities and housing/long-term rental options.

Miami Beach (Florida)

The article discussed how Miami Beach has struggled to enforce its short-term rental regulations, which limit the location of short-term rentals based on tourist appeal and neighborhood character. For rentals less than six months and one day, homeowners must: (1) submit an affidavit stating that their home is located in an approved short-term rental area; (2) obtain a business tax receipt and resort tax account; and (3) if part of a condo association, show that the association allows short-term rentals. Single-family homes are prohibited from engaging in short-term rentals. Violations result in the eviction of tenants and fines for the owner starting at $20,000.

Denver, Estes Park, and Larimer County (Colorado)

The article noted that Denver has imposed both regulations and taxes on short-term rentals, which generated $1.1 million in the first eight months of 2017. The property registration rate is estimated at around 70 percent.

Nearby Estes Park and Larimer County jointly developed short-term rental regulations to ensure consistency within their jurisdictions. All short-term rental property owners must register and pay an application fee of $200 plus $50 per bedroom. The joint ordinance: (1) sets caps on rentals within residential zones and limits occupancy to eight people per home unless exempted after a review process; (2) requires the designation of a local representative of property manager to handle complaints; and (3) prohibits employee housing, attainable housing, and accessory dwelling units from being registered.

Walla Walla (Washington)

The city of Walla Walla passed a controversial ordinance that prohibited short-term rentals for properties that were not owner occupied for at least 275 days per year and limited rentals to 29 days at a time. Owners must also register short-term rentals as a business and pay applicable taxes. The article described the controversy surrounding the ordinance and the implementation challenges as many short-term renters could not meet the short timeline for the registration and taxation requirements.

Useful Links

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of Airbnb Issues



Howard County Ponders Future of Ellicott City’s Main Street After Second Flood

Bay Journal article (2018-07-10) recounted the scientific investigation into the second devastating flood to hit downtown Ellicott City within 2 years and the steps Howard County is taking to improve the City’s resiliency against future severe flooding events. The first flood in 2016 resulted in 2 deaths and caused roughly $10 million in damages. The flood this May caused 1 death and an estimated $20 million in damages. While the City’s Main Street area recovered slowly after the first flood, most businesses and residents elected to stay. However, after the second flood, some businesses have announced they are moving and some residents are considering whether to stay.

“There’s some very large emotional, financial and political decisions to be made,” said Jim Caldwell, Howard County’s director of community sustainability. “There’s a lot of work that needs to be done and a lot of soul-searching (by) folks that live there.”

Downtown Ellicott City has historically been prone to flooding, although development in the region and climate change appear to have aggravated the situation in recent years. After the 2016 flood, the County commissioned an engineering study after the 2016 flood and approved a variety of projects to help mitigate future flooding. However, the second flood hit before those projects could be implemented.  

Caldwell, the county community sustainability director, said after the flooding caused by Tropical Storm Lee in 2011, he thought of three big changes that could help reduce damage from future storms – buying out some property owners and removing their buildings to open up the flood plain, “daylighting” stream channels now buried under streets and buildings, and getting vehicles off Main Street. During the 2016 flood and again in May, cars became battering rams as they washed down the street, and a few plugged up one of the culverts.

The article noted that the County is now considering a variety of additional proposals, including a thorough review of planned and future development, buying out some properties and taking down the buildings to create more pervious surface for a flood plain, and prohibiting cars on Main Street.

Useful Links

Prior Conduit Street Coverage on Ellicott City Flooding

Learn about responding to a water crisis and communicating during an emergency at the 2018 MACo Summer Conference. Relevant panels include: “When It Rains, It Pours: Communicating in a Crisis” and “Batten Down the Hatches! Weathering a Water Crisis.” Both panels run on August 16.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:


Required Planning and Zoning Training Offered at #MACoCon

Learn about local government planning and zoning at the 2018 MACo Summer Conference. This course is required by State law if you are a planning board member, planning commissioner, or a Board of Appeals member.

Planning Board, Planning Commissioner and Board of Appeals Members Education Course


This FREE course satisfies a training requirement that was part of the Smart and Sustainable Growth Act of 2009, which requires Planning Commission, Planning Board, and Board of Appeals members to complete an education course within 6 months after appointment to the Commission or Board. The Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) and the Maryland Planning Commissioners Association (MPCA) is offering this course to all those who have not yet completed it.

The Course covers topics such as foundations of planning, the role of the comprehensive plan, standards for special exceptions and variances and implementing ordinances such as zoning and subdivision and adequate public facilities, planning law, ethics and the latest legislative and policy developments concerning planning in Maryland.

NOTE: You do not need to register for the conference to attend this course.


  • Charles W. Boyd, Director Planning Coordination, Maryland Department of Planning
  • Tracey Gordy, Regional Planner, Lower Eastern Shore Regional Office, Maryland Department of Planning
  • Keith Lackie, Regional Planner, Lower Eastern Shore Regional Office, Maryland Department of Planning
  • Paul Cucuzzella, Principal Counsel, Maryland Department of Planning

Date & Time: Wednesday, August 15, 2018; 9:00 am – Noon

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Keeping Cars Off the Boards Ain’t Cheap

Safety comes at a price. Unfortunately, Ocean City’s came in four times over budget.

In an effort to protect vehicular attacks on pedestrians on the boardwalk, the town looked into closing off all access points. Originally estimated to cost about $1 million, the plan is now estimated at more than $4.26 million. The town is looking at ways to reduce the cost without undermining utility.

Delmarvanow covers the story:

The project was originally proposed last fall after multiple deliberate attacks on pedestrians involving vehicles occurred in cities across the United States and abroad. In the last four years, at least 15 such attacks have happened around the world, according to USA Today.

PSC Changing of the Guards

Jason M. Stanek has taken over the helm of Maryland’s Public Service Commission (PSC), following the departure of former PSC Chair Kevin Hughes on June 30.

Former PSC Chair Kevin Hughes

The Natural Resources Defense Council provides a warm tribute to Hughes, who served as Governor Martin O’Malley’s deputy legislative officer:

Respectful describes Hughes’ working style perfectly, and explains how he was able to accomplish big things while on PSC. For example, in 2015 he led fellow Commissioners and staff as they developed and issued a historic order vaulting Maryland up in the rankings of state energy efficiency policy published annually by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. Key components of this order were then enacted into law by the Maryland legislature and Governor Hogan in 2017, underscoring the importance of this achievement.

Stanek most recently served as Senior Counsel to the Energy Subcommittee of the US House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee. Prior to that, he served 16 years in progressively senior positions in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Stanek holds a B.A. in International Relations from Tulane University and a J.D. from the State University of New York at Buffalo, School of Law.

Governor Larry Hogan said of Stanek:

Jason Stanek’s impressive career working in positions related to energy and utility policy demonstrates his vast experience and understanding of these complex issues. He is knowledgeable in nearly every aspect of the utility industry, and I have no doubt that he will serve Maryland well in this new role.

Could Global Factors Slow The Local Solar Boom?

Maryland has seen a rapid growth in both utility-scale and smaller-level solar generation capacity – witnessed by the land use pressures facing many parts of the state (and legislation in recent years to address those continuing pressures). See prior Conduit Street coverage of solar issues for a flavor of this ongoing challenge to local, especially agricultural, land use.

A report on the Bloomberg news site indicates that China’s recent announcement of reduced plans for new solar installations could trigger a contraction in this market, where growth has been strong in recent years:

The global solar market could do something this year that it’s never done before: shrink.

Solar installations in 2018 may total 95 gigawatts, down 3 percent from a year earlier, based on the most conservative of three scenarios modeled by Bloomberg NEF in a report Monday. For comparison’s sake, the typical nuclear reactor has about a gigawatt of capacity.

The forecast, even with its potential call for some retraction, still suggests an overall upward trend, possibly fueled by a decline in price for equipment and materials for installations, also resulting from reduced Chinese demand.

Federal BUILD Act Expands Brownfield Redevelopment Opportunities

A Miles & Stockbridge Environment & Energy blog article (2018-06-15) reported that recently passed federal legislation provides significant incentives for brownfield revitalization and redevelopment. The Brownfields Utilization, Investment, and Local Development Act of 2018 (BUILD Act) improves the existing brownfield program creates new redevelopment incentives. The article noted that there are approximately 450,000 brownfield sites throughout the nation.

The article highlighted the BUILD Act’s: (1) new and enhanced incentives under the Brownfields Program; (2) codification of tenant liability protection under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA); and (3) incentives for redevelopment of waterfront brownfields and sites using renewable energy.

When discussing  waterfront redevelopment, the article cited an example from Baltimore, Maryland:

Many former industrial sites were sited along waterways out of necessity and are ripe for reuse as mixed use commercial and residential areas. A successful example of this can be found in Baltimore, Maryland. Former warehousing and manufacturing sites along the Patapsco River contaminated with heavy metals, petroleum, and PAHs, were converted into commercial and residential use though Maryland’s voluntary cleanup program, grants from EPA, and private investment. …

Cleanup of Superfund sites and brownfields sites has been a priority of the current administration and the current EPA. Through the BUILD Act, Congress has provided EPA and the market with additional tools in the form of additional liability protections and financial incentives that will boost redevelopment and reuse of contaminated sites through the Brownfields Program.

Useful Links

BUILD Act of 2018

Calvert Water Trails Map Helps You Plan Your Next Big Boating Adventure






A Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) press release (2018-06-19) announced that DNR and Calvert County Parks and Recreation have created a new water trails guide that map the County’s waterways and water access sites. The guide was created in collaboration with the Calvert Nature Society, Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum, Patuxent Riverkeeper, Chesapeake Beach, North Beach, and Solomons Island. From the press release:

“The development of these paddling routes expands the statewide network of water trails to almost 800 miles, and adds to the number and variety of water trail guides for Southern Maryland,” Maryland Natural Resources Program Director Lisa Gutierrez said. “The new map will assist boaters, canoers, kayakers and paddlers in Calvert County and beyond.” …

“The new water trails guide will enhance outdoor experiences for area residents, attract visitors to explore Calvert County, and help spread the messages of environmental stewardship and safe boating,” Calvert County Natural Resources Division Chief Karyn Molines said.

The waterproof map is available for $3.00 (covers processing and postage) through the DNR store and other locations.

Useful Links

Calvert County Water Trail Adventures Map

Learn more about the important role of water recreation at the 2018 MACo Summer Conference panel “Getting Your Feet Wet: Big Benefits of Water Recreation.” The Conference runs from August 15-18 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Baltimore City Awarded $380,000 for Stormwater Mitigation Projects

A Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) press release (2018-06-20) announced that Baltimore City has been awarded $380,000 in general obligation bond proceeds for the construction of two stormwater management projects: (1) the Druid Heights Community Development Corporation at Jones Falls/Patapsco River; and (2) the Parks and People Foundation at Baltimore Harbor. The bond proceeds were unanimously approved by the Maryland Board of Public Works. From the press release:

“Working with local communities and partners, the department identifies and prioritizes projects aimed at accelerating Chesapeake Bay restoration in the most cost-effective and efficient manner, enhancing water quality while reducing overall costs,” Maryland Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton said. “We are leveraging existing state funds for the completion of these two Baltimore City projects, which were selected due to their strong local support and impact on the bay.”

The two projects are:

Druid Heights Community Development Corporation
Jones Falls/Patapsco River
As part of a larger neighborhood and revitalization effort, funding will convert a 3,600-square foot vacant lot into an environmental enhancement that will include three stormwater bioretention areas, pervious surfacing and the planting of 10 trees.

Parks and People Foundation
Baltimore Harbor
As part of a larger park revitalization project, funding will install four stormwater bioretention areas, 5,000-square feet of pervious surface, remediate 11,500-square feet of soil and the planting of 20 trees.

Funding for the two projects would come through the department’s Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund as well as the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development’s Community Legacy Program, Project C.O.R.E. (Creating Opportunities for Renewal and Enterprise), Baltimore Regional Neighborhood Initiative and Keep Maryland Beautiful.

Useful Links

Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund Web Page

Sustainable Communities Web Page

Project CORE Web Page

Baltimore Regional Neighborhood Initiative Web Page

Keep Maryland Beautiful Web Page

Maryland Local Governments Receive $700,000 in Climate Resilience Grants

A Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) press release (2018-06-19) announced the award of $700,000 in Climate Resilience Grants to local governments. The competitive grants help local governments perform risk assessments, prepare for, and recover from flooding and other severe weather events. County recipients included Anne Arundel, Cecil, Somerset, Talbot, and Worcester. From the press release:

“We have already witnessed the devastating effects that severe rain and storms can cause in our communities,” Maryland Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton said. “This program aims to help our local partners become better prepared and more resilient so they are able to recover from and respond to climate-related challenges, risks and threats, be it flooding or sea level rise.”

Maryland communities awarded grant funding this year include:

Anne Arundel County – Funding for the West River United Methodist Center to address erosion, sea level rise and stormwater pollution by a living shoreline and regenerative stormwater conveyance systems in the West River.

Cecil County – To develop a countywide green infrastructure network and plan using state planning tools and public input.

City of Annapolis – Assistance to the city in its application to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Flood Insurance Program’s Community Rating System and public outreach on risk reduction to flooding.

City of Annapolis – To assist St. Mary’s Catholic Church in the development of a living shoreline along Spa Creek that works in tandem with on-site stormwater practices to address water quality and quantity.

City of Laurel – Assistance to the city in its application to Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Flood Insurance Program’s Community Rating System and public outreach on risk reduction to flooding.

Somerset County – To conduct an assessment of drainage ditches in two areas of Deal Island, which will also identify mitigation needed to alleviate localized flooding.

Talbot County – To develop communication strategies around flooding risk and impacts, what community members should do during a flood, and how flooding impacts may change in the future

Town of Berlin – To develop a Resilience Element for the Comprehensive Plan, including public engagement, and addressing short and long term climate impacts.

Town of Charlestown – To develop a system wide inventory of the town’s stormwater drainage system with a prioritized list of improvements. Evaluate the town’s floodplain management regulations.

Town of Deale Beach – Assistance to the Deale Beach Citizens Association in the design of a living shoreline and to address storm impacts and wave energy.

Town of Hebron – To support the development of a study and resulting stormwater management plan to mitigate flooding issues.

Town of Oxford – To design green infrastructure practices that address coastal storm impacts, tidal flooding, and stormwater runoff on public and private properties.

Worcester County – To design a natural shoreline stabilization and marsh restoration project along Isle of Wight Bay to address recurrent community flooding and sea level rise.

Worcester County – To develop a wetland restoration and natural shoreline stabilization project on Tizzard Island in Chincoteague Bay.

Grants will be used to identify and prioritize vulnerable communities, incorporate climate change data and information into existing plans and policies, and develop nature-based or natural solutions to control flooding.

Useful Links

DNR Funding Opportunities Web Page (including Resilience Grants)