2018-04-13 / Letters

Let’s work together

To the editor:

On April 3, South Portland repealed two ordinances regarding short-term rentals. After a referendum petition was certified by the clerk, the council had the choice of placing the ordinances on the ballot or repealing them in their entirety. There was an audible sigh of relief in council chambers when the council unanimously voted to repeal. Residents were energized to take a more thorough look at problems recognized by every councilor and the vast majority of our residents. And residents who had been on opposite sides of the issue talked about the need to work together.

As we move forward, it’s important to remind the community that the council cannot evade the referendum process by changing a phrase in the enacted ordinances and passing them again. That is not the way the referendum process works.

Once a referendum has qualified, the council cannot adopt what is essentially the same ordinance. The courts have universally prevented legislative bodies from circumventing the referendum process by repealing the referred act to moot the vote, only to enact the objectionable law as a new measure. Any revised ordinance must be materially different from the previously enacted ordinance – otherwise the legislative action undermines the will of the electorate.

The council’s action created an opportunity for our community to work together to prevent vacation houses that do not belong in our residential neighborhoods, enact prudent standards for regulating vacation rentals throughout our community, and consider development standards to restrict the overbuilt structures that created the problems.

Let’s work together to do so in a deliberate and thoughtful way.

Natalie E. West South Portland

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