Letter to the Editor: A Note of Concern about Impact of Kent County Short Term Rentals

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With the proliferation of new Airbnb, VRBO, and other rental sites popping up around Kent County over the past couple of years, there are some points to consider:

A non-exhaustive review of the AirBnB and VRBO websites revealed over 50 sites in Kent County. At an average booking rate with an average rental fee, this means that over $ 1,200,000 in annual rental income is being collected by these properties. That means the county is losing over $60,000 in room taxes each year. Additionally, with the decrease in revenues experienced by some local, licensed, regulated B&Bs, which now contribute correspondingly lower tax payments, the above losses in  the county are exacerbated.

In addition, there could be further loss of county revenue, the net income county tax rate of 2.5%, if these “invisible, under-the-table” lodging businesses are under-reporting profits on tax returns. Raising the visibility of these businesses through county enforcement measures could make it more difficult to remain hidden from compliance agencies across the board.

Another point for consideration is the effect these unregulated property rentals are having on their neighbors. Folks who have their morning cups of coffee are wondering who is now next door, while other neighbors coming home late at night are wondering who that strange car belongs to! Enforcement of existing zoning regulations would help.

Occasionally, traffic flow is made more difficult by Airbnb guests who are simply unaware of local parking codes. Huge boats pulled by large SUVs, parked on curves, on a 2-way street, in a residential neighborhood, close to a school, should certainly be considered a problem.

There are needs in Kent County. Don’t you think $ 60,000 (or more) each year would help a little bit? Perhaps as a starting point these lodging problems could be addressed by sending a letter to these property owners outlining the codes and regulations the county has in place. That would be a start.

Other communities are starting to solve these problems. Isn’t it time for us to do the same?

 

David & Cheryl Hoopes
Chestertown

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