by Mike Conroy
Over a year ago, Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Reimer proposed new county zoning provisions to permit and regulate short-term (less than 30 day) residential property rentals through services such as Airbnb, Flipkey, Homeaway, etc. For many years, short-term rentals of property have been prohibited, but the county council recognizes that property owners and visitors to the county have nonetheless been offering and renting short term residential rentals.
In response to Reimer’s proposal, many residents and community associations initially voiced general concerns about the effect of short-term rentals on quality of life in neighborhoods. At the same time, many short-term rental hosts praised the personal income benefits of short term rentals and the contribution of short-term rentals in satisfying the needs for several categories of visitors to our region, from scientists and medical personnel, to government and industry interns and tourist families.
The county council asked the Planning Board to hold public hearings and develop a Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) that established reasonable parameters of short-term residential rentals based on positions raised by proponents and opponents.
A draft ZTA was released in early May 2017 and revised and transmitted to the county council for further review on May 17.
In short, the proposed ZTA would permit rentals of residential properties for less than 30 days throughout most zones in the county, upon obtaining a short-term rental license (rentals lasting longer than 30 days continue to require a standard rental license). Owners of properties used for short-term rentals are limited to 90 days of short term rental if they are not present during the rental; if the owner is present during the rental, then the 90-day limit does not apply. A property owner must also comply with all applicable provisions of community association documents, such as restrictions on rentals and parking regulations.
Montgomery Village Foundation (MVF) General Counsel Christopher Hitchens noted that county-wide, community opposition to the proposed ZTA has waned, especially down-county, where proximity to regional employers and institutions, coupled with availability of public transportation, create a very favorable climate for short-term rental properties. He noted that in most Montgomery Village communities, there are currently no restrictions on rentals generally, and that governing documents would have to be amended if a community wanted to regulate short-term rentals.
Executive Vice President (EVP) Dave Humpton asked for input from the Board, specifically for direction and suggestions. Board members cited some opinion that overall, maintenance of short-term rental properties was superior to long-term rentals, but were also very concerned about parking issues, as there is already very limited space in many townhouse and condominium neighborhoods in the Village. Another concern voiced by the Board was whether short-term hosts would provide guests with access codes to condominium buildings and how this practice might affect security and security costs for associations.
MVF staff will closely monitor the proposed ZTA and continue to keep the Board informed on changes and county council hearing dates.
In committee-related items, the Board reappointed Melanie O’Brien as chair of the Communications Committee, as well as appointed Bryan Price and Rahul Khanna to the Communications and Recreation committees, respectively.
The Board also approved a sole-source bid from Dell for technology purchases, in accordance with the Reserve budget. A dozen desktop computers, a laptop and additional monitors and stands were slated for replacement at a cost not to exceed $23,500.
Finally, the Whetstone Community Center playground replacement project, originally slated for a 2018 Reserve project, was moved to a 2017 Reserve project, with a budget of $79,261. The playground was slated for replacement in 2015, but delayed because other playgrounds needed replacement sooner than anticipated. Upon inspection this spring, staff found components that are showing signs of wear and age, and recommended the replacement be done this year. A work group to provide input on the replacement will be formed in the near future.
EVP Humpton noted that MVF-owned pools would be opening for Memorial Day Weekend, including the Apple Ridge Pool, which was both on schedule and on budget. He said there would be a ribbon cutting event scheduled for Wednesday, June 21 at
6:30 p.m. to officially open the pool for the season.
Humpton also said that earlier that day the county council adopted its FY 2018 budget, which includes additional police resources for the 6th District and funds for resurfacing county roads. Included in roadway projects were Montgomery Village Avenue and Watkins Mill Road.
MVF Treasurer Bob Carey reported on the financial health of the organization for both the month of April and the year-to-date (YTD). Carey said that MVF remains in a solid financial position with $8.2 million in Cash and Investments. He noted a $900,000 increase in fixed assets for 2017, mostly due to the Apple Ridge Pool renovation.
Revenue for the month was reported at $726,000, slightly unfavorable to the budget due to lower than expected disclosure fees and camps and classes; these were partially offset by an increase in advertising revenue. Operating Expenses for the month were favorable to the budget by $95,000.
Carey said YTD Revenue was favorable to the budget at $2.9 million, due mainly to investment income; YTD Expenses were also favorable at $2.1 million due to lower than expected salaries and maintenance costs. Capital Contribution Fees received through April totaled $45,789 and Contributions to Reserves in the amount of $90,830 were made in accordance with the budget.
The next MVF Board of Directors meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 22, in the North Creek Board Room, 20125 Arrowhead Road. The meeting begins promptly at 7:30 p.m. with Residents Time. Residents are invited and encouraged to attend the Board meeting. The meeting agenda and information packet will be available online at www.montgomeryvillage.com the week of the meeting.