2018-11-02 / Letters

Letters to the Editor

To the editor:

I am asking citizens to vote against Ordinances 22-17/18 and 23-17/18 regarding short-term rentals.

I am what is called a hosted stay and will be unaffected by the ordinance. I have been a teacher at South Portland High School for the last 17 years and I live in the community. I want strong neighborhoods.

I am still, however, asking you to vote against these ordinances for a very simple reason. Before this ordinance, you could respectfully rent your home un-hosted as you saw fit. Before this ordinance, you could rent your home un-hosted one weekend every month, while staying with a friend or relative in your neighborhood.

Before this ordinance you could rent your home un-hosted one weekend every month if you needed help paying the mortgage, fixing a roof, replacing lost wages, or paying for a costly new medication.

You will no longer be able to do that if the ordinance passes. You will get two weeks. No more.

The other side has portrayed un-hosted short-term rentals as benefitting only a few.

As a teacher here in South Portland, who sees students and families of all financial means, who might benefit from renting respectfully now or in the future, I know this is simply untrue.

I want rules for short-term rentals, but I want common sense ones.

Please vote against the short-term rental ordinances. Peter Anderson South Portland

To the editor:

To those who oppose short-term rentals of whole houses, I am one of “those” people: an out-of-stater who rents out their house on a short-term basis. That said, I thought before you go off to vote on the referendum, I would like to explain our view of the issues as well as a little bit of the reasoning behind our having an short-term rental.

My husband and I currently live in the Pacific Northwest, but maintain a small cottage in Willard Beach because our children are here in Maine. Being able to rent out our house when we are not in residence is what makes it affordable for us to keep the cottage. We have been connected to Maine for generations. Our children went to school in Maine from day care and kindergarten through college, and both still live and work in southern Maine (Portland and Windham). We come to South Portland several times a year to stay for at least several weeks, and often several months, at a time, principally to see our sons and their families, our friends and other relatives, to work on the house and hopefully, to retire to in a few years. We are working class people, not deep pocket investors, not house flippers, and our house represents a significant portion of our retirement equity. We have always hired a local resident to act as our representative and caretaker when we are not in residence in Maine.

We do not rent to large groups of people – we rent to one small family at a time. We believe that letting other families stay at our house when we cannot be here benefits all. Our guests come from all over the world to South Portland for all kinds of reasons: family visits, family vacations, weddings and anniversaries, birthday celebrations, medical internships, people who have had to move out of their local house due to fire or water damage – nearly every reason you can think of. They make our home theirs while they are staying and treat it as they would their own homes.

We are not against regulating short-term rentals. Quite to the contrary, we are all for reasonable regulations and licensing, and have suggested many regulations to the city council. Since this is the second time that a petition has garnered enough signatures to keep the ordinance from being enacted, it seems obvious that the issue is more complicated than the council first believed. Let’s wipe the slate clean, go back to square one and do the research necessary to come up with the proper way to deal with the issue of short-term rentals. Done right we believe it can unite the community rather than divide it. Susan Holland Bellingham, Washington

To the editor:

I am supporting Tammy Walter for house representative, District 32.Tammy was the first female president in the club’s history. Tammy has shown her grit and determination in the Spurwink Rod and Gun Club’s permitting and licensing saga. There were constant challenges over four years and she stuck with it to resolution. We are still an operating club because of that grit and determination. Tammy does not care if a person is a Democrat or a Republican, she cares about right and wrong and compassion. If you want to see what a person will do in the future look at what that person has done in the past. Compare the two candidates history of involvement and you will see Tammy is obviously the better candidate. Mark Mayone South Portland

To the editor:

The important vote on short-term rentals for South Portland will happen on Nov. 6. This has been a long and complicated debate. I believe the council has yet to find the right balance to resolve this issue. Because of that, I am voting against the proposed ordinance.

To be clear: voting against does not mean you want shortterm rentals in residential neighborhoods. Voting against will not be a vote to allow this to happen. Voting against simply means we will return to the city’s original language. At that point, the council has options: enforce the language on the books, continue working on better/improved language, or forming a committee to review other options. The choices are many.

The proposed language has many weak points. The council moved too quickly and did not do a thorough job. Those supporting this change are using false information to frighten us. Those tactics won’t work.

Additionally, the proposed language means the city will hire Host Compliance, a Silicon Valley privately held company, for some unknown sum of money, to track use. It will be taxpayers money that pays this, and I want to know more. How much? How often? Who sees the information?

Slow is fast. Let’s take our time, think through the challenges and decide once how to resolve this situation. Surrounding communities have adopted language and are now re-thinking their decision. Let’s be smarter.

Vote against the ordinance. Take time to make the right decision. Rosemarie De Angelis South Portland

To the editor:

Our neighborhoods in South Portland are varied and unique to location and characteristics. One thing common to all our neighborhoods is its neighbors, folks who live and work and play together. We share a common concern in keeping our neighborhoods intact and cohesive.

To have neighborhoods disrupted and intruded upon with a lot of people renting short term in un-hosted residences is not the way life should be. Please help keep our neighborhoods intact, safe and free from commercial exploitation by voting for the ordinances (22 and 23). Donald and Diane Gotelli South Portland

To the editor:

In 1620 a small group of Puritans left the shores of England and sailed west to America. They were headed for Jamestown, Virginia. They landed in what is now Cape Cod, Massachusetts. We all know the story of the Pilgrims and many of us are related to or have married descendants of those hearty folks. The main reason for their trip was to escape religious persecution. They created the Mayflower Compact and agreed to form their own community and government. Their first attempt of government was Socialism. Needless to say it failed because some among them decided that it was easier to let someone else do the work and then share in that bounty. As Margaret Thatcher once said, “Sooner or later you run out of other people’s money.” But this isn’t about religion but more about government. The Pilgrims also found out that Capitalism was a far better system of governing when it came to growing what they wanted and selling it to who they wanted and that work was good and usually profitable.

In order to be a Capitalist you need capital and that meant land, money or a combination of both. Therefore as landowners they could do what they wanted on their land, within reason. Fast forward to today. Most of us own a home and the land it sits on, be it ever so mortgaged, it still has our name on it. We live in cities, towns or some other form of government jurisdiction. We pay taxes to that jurisdiction to provide us with certain services. Other than that, “Our Home is Our Castle.” This little piece of heaven is called private property. We bought it, we maintain it and in most cases are taxed for it.

Therefore I don’t see where any government has a right to tell me what I can and can’t do on my private property. We are over ordinanced. We have ordinances on dogs, pesticides, noise, extra vehicles and the size (height, width) of our homes. Now they want to tell us who can rent space in our homes. Isn’t that stifling Capitalism. This isn’t about hosted or not hosted, this is about control. If you have an AirBnb in your neighborhood and it is too noisy or people are parking where they shouldn’t do your civic duty and call the police. Enforcing ordinances is the police departments job. If you are not satisfied contact your city councilor because that is their job to tell the city manager to tell the police to do their job. Either let the police enforce the existing ordinances or become a mob ruled city. Enough is enough. Vote No on the short-term rental ordinance. Michael R. Pock South Portland

To the editor:

I’ve known Tammy Walter for several years and think she’d be an excellent addition to the Legislature.

As chairman of the Cape Elizabeth Town Council, I had the pleasure of working with Tammy in her role as the president of the Spurwink Rod and Gun Club. She was a strong advocate for her organization when the town developed a regulatory process that included a number of different constituencies with different objectives. Tammy was always well informed and extremely respectful of both the process and all of the participants.

She’ll bring the same skills, determination and respect to working together with her associates in the Legislature and I’m pleased to support her as a candidate. Molly MacAuslan Cape Elizabeth

To the editor:

John Murphy (“Don’t go by short-term rental fact sheet,” Oct. 26 letters) leveled powerful charges against Neighbors for Neighborhoods (the people asking you to vote for the city council’s ordinances). He believes our graph showing cumulative short-term rentals is a lie. In fact, it was derived from data published online by Airdna.com, culled directly from Airbnb and other short-term rental platforms. In a highly secretive rental industry, we were lucky to find trend data. We believe we have presented it honestly and that it supports our argument about the short-term rental problem at hand. Our graph is clearly labeled “Cumulative Listings” with an attribution to the source. Had we wished to lie, we could simply have eliminated “Cumulative” and the source. While cumulative listings are greater than current listings, the growth trend is explosive, either way. More than a hundred single family homes converted to hotels in our residential zones in a few short years is a big problem, and it will get rapidly worse if we do not act now.

Neighbors For Neighborhoods does not need to lie in order to make our case about un-hosted short-term rentals in our residential neighborhoods. The same can’t be said for Mr. Murphy’s group, which they ironically chose to call, “South Portland Citizens For Property Rights.” Their own fundraising report (available on the city clerk’s webpage) shows that only two of 14 reported donors are registered South Portland voters. The rest are from Cape Elizabeth, Portland, Bellingham, Washington, Manhattan Beach, California and Frankfurt, Germany. One of their two listed officers lives in Cape Elizabeth, but files PAC forms with the address of her un-hosted short-term rental. Their Facebook page is controlled from Chicago. We invite you to check our own PAC filings. We are your neighbors, 24/7, 100 percent for real.

And then, we have the problem about property rights. Mr. Murphy’s group asserts a right to commercialize their property in our residential zones. This is a right that has never existed in our zoning history. Worse, yet, they don’t attempt to gain this right for everybody. The fine print of their ad says they want to cap the number of un-hosted short-term rentals at the current number. That means new property rights for them and tough luck for all the rest of us. So whether or not you believe in their expansive view of property rights, they will get hotels and you will get nothing. Does that sound reasonable? Peter Stanton South Portland

To the editor:

Please vote for the South Portland short-term rental ordinances on Nov. 6: They allow hosted short-term rentals in up to three bedrooms with six guests; they allow owners to rent out their home un-hosted for two weeks per year; and rentals of 30 days or longer have no limitations.

Investors are buying houses – not to live in, not to rent to long-term renters, but to create un-hosted hotels in our residential zoned neighborhoods. Through sites like Airbnb, short-term rentals in South Portland have increased by 45 percent in just the past year.

Ask yourself if you would want to have a hotel or multiple hotels, with no management on the premises next door to your home. Gone are the neighbors that will watch out for each other, shovel out an elderly neighbor, have kids going to school and playing sports – connections that are the fabric of our neighborhoods.

“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got “till it’s gone?” - Joni Mitchell Roberta Zuckerman South Portland

To the editor:

Lying seems to be the new norm in our country. I believe it starts on the national level, but I see it happening on the local level, too, where big orange and white signs declare: “Protect YOUR Property Rights.” Now if you happen to be in the investor class or own a commercial business located in a residential zone, this sign does speak truth to you. For the rest of us, which is most of us, the sign is a lie. At least if you live in a residential zone, voting for this position would actually take away your property rights and protections, the very opposite of what is “promised.”

I bought my home in a residential neighborhood 22 years ago because I wanted to grow old with neighbors and a sense of community. I was notified if a neighbor wanted to make changes that were outside the code. I was given the option to object, before the fact. It simply never, ever occurred to me that a blatantly commercial business could move in across the street. Yet that is exactly what happened. My property rights have already been violated. Are yours next?

I support my neighbors’ right to use their primary residence to earn income, whether renting out space as a hosted short-term rental or a long-term rental or through an approved home occupation. These are all supported in the ordinances. More accurately, none are prohibited. What I dp want prohibited in my residential neighborhood are whole houses being rented out to strangers, making lots of money for others, who are not only not our neighbors, they may not even live in this country. Neighborhoods are for neighbors. Neighbors are people who stay around. We want families, kids growing up down the street. We want renters and first time home buyers. We want people of all races and socio-economic groups. We want people with a variety of religious practices, including none at all. We want good schools for our children and supports for our elders. We want neighbors. We want homes, not hotels.

Please vote for South Portland Ordinances 22 and 23 and restore our neighborhoods. Louise Tate South Portland

To the editor:

I’ve been honored to have proudly served the citizens of Cumberland County as your district attorney for 28 years.

During the course of my career I’ve met a number of outstanding public service professionals. One of those professionals is Bill Holmes.

I first met Bill when he served as an investigator for the Cumberland County Sheriffs Office. I was impressed with his investigative skills and his interaction with crime victims.

Bill later moved on to serve as the patrol captain and captain of criminal investigations.

In his current role as director of emergency (9-1-1) communications in Cumberland County, Bill has continued to earn a reputation with the public safety agencies he serves as an honest, dedicated and respected leader and innovator.

After 37 years of employment with Cumberland County Bill Holmes is now willing to step down as an employee and continue in service to the citizens of Cumberland County as a county commissioner.

Bill’s experience as a career county employee will bring a unique skill set to the position and will add value to the board of commissioners.

Bill Holmes has earned my trust and support. I encourage all citizens in District 4: Westbrook, South Portland, Cape Elizabeth and Portland’s North Deering area to join me in supporting Bill Holmes for county commissioner. Stephanie Anderson Cape Elizabeth

To the editor:

I am writing in support of my friend, neighbor and colleague, Tom Coward, who is running for his third term as District 4 Cumberland County commissioner.

As a former neighbor of Tom, I had many opportunities over 15 years to discuss his civic activities and goals for the city and the county. Tom is a straight shooter who does his homework to ensure he fully comprehends the issue. As an attorney, Tom has the training and education that allows him to develop deep comprehension of issues and paths to their solutions. He is a strategic thinker with a steady, quiet determination to get the job done. As a two-term commissioner he has made strides in changing the way that services are delivered to the county designed to reduce the tax burden on its citizens.

Most recently, Tom has been a mentor to me as a Realtor. I have benefited from his personal one-on-one counseling as well as in group sessions where Tom has instructed realtors on technical issues pertaining to the profession. In this, as in his public life, Tom is thorough and professional and has earned the esteem of his colleagues.

I will be voting to re-elect this most worthy public servant to his final term as Cumberland County commissioner. I hope others will too. Ellen Clancy South Portland

To the editor:

Over the past 15 years, I have grown alongside my partner, Chris. As loving parents to two beautifully spirited daughters, we have weathered unemployment, housing insecurity, crippling student debt, and a recession that hit just as we entered the workforce. Rather than succumb to his circumstances, Chris organizes. He overcomes, usually with wit, charm and ingenuity. When Chris sets his mind to something, he does not rest until it’s done, and done well. His insatiable curiosity and dedication are ever-present. Chris is also the one who reminds me to look at the stars and smell the flowers. His drive to solve problems is perfectly balanced with his ability to slow down and be present in the moment. He is exactly what our political climate needs right now: smarts, humor and compassion.

Please vote Chris Kessler for state representative. He is ready to get to work for you. Jessie Kessler South Portland

To the editor:

I am writing to encourage all District 4 citizens to vote for the re-election of Tom Coward as Cumberland County commissioner.

I’m a former neighbor of Tom and have known he and his family for more than 15 years. Now completing his second term as a county commissioner, Tom previously served his community as a long-time member of South Portland’s board of appeals and later as a city councilor and mayor. One thing I’ve always admired about Tom is his calm and deliberate demeanor. He has the personal qualities rarely seen in politics these days; he’s open-minded, respectful of others and is willing to listen to all sides of the issue.

As the current president of Maine County Commissioners Association, Tom led the successful effort to obtain current year state funding for county jails across the state. He has vowed to fight for statuary funding mechanism rather than fighting for funding every budget season.

Please support Tom’s bid for a final term so he can continue to develop regional services that allow municipalities to cut operating costs (and reduce our local property taxes). Tom has also vowed to continue seeking solutions for the opioid crisis and expanding Internet access for all in Cumberland County. Richard Rottkov South Portland

To the editor:

Those opposed to the short-term rental ordinances claim on their signs that we all would lose our property rights if the ordinances were to pass. I find this claim to be blatantly untrue. Living in a residential zone with defined ordinances protects us from businesses that could be noisy, dangerous or simply annoying. Our right to have a safe, quiet place to live is protected. There are defined zones in the city to keep appropriate uses in specified areas. I want to protect my property rights to have a happy place to live with neighbors that I know.

It is very important to understand that the ordinances do not apply to an un-hosted renter staying in your home for 30 days or more. This fact should assure an owner that one can rent one’s home while on an extended vacation or during an absence. This has always been allowed and would still be allowed. The proposed ordinances would act to prevent a parade of people cycling through your neighbor’s house every few days while they are gone.

Vote for the ordinances to protect your property’s value. Most people will not want to purchase your house if it is surrounded by hotels. Abby Huntoon South Portland

To the editor:

I am sign coordinator for “Neighbors For Neighborhoods” in South Portland. My duties, along with assistance from other members, is to place “Homes Not Hotels in Residential Neighborhoods, Vote FOR SP Ordinances 22 & 23 Getting Short-Term Rentals Right,” signs around the city. On the surface it sounds like a simple but tedious task. Unfortunately those duties have become extremely difficult and complicated as there have been many instances of our signs being removed from their locations, never to be seen again, others vandalized, and still others being taken off their stands and left on the ground. In one particular incident a large wooden sign was removed from its location, with only a small portion of the wooden stake left behind. Several times we have had to make police reports.

We are a community of approximately 25,000 people. We are allowed to voice our varying opinions. I find it quite sad that not all respect that concept. Barry Zuckerman South Portland

To the editor:

What about our property rights? We’re tired of seeing signs opposing the short-term rental ordinance based on “property rights.” Don’t we have a right to the quiet enjoyment of the home that we bought in 1996 – in a Residential A zone? That includes the right not to live next door to a hotel-by-any-other-name, with a parade of ever changing guests whose behavior we cannot effectively regulate or control.

We can’t count on the owners of un-hosted short-term rentals to be on hand to monitor and address the behavior of their guests. Don’t bother telling us that we can always call the police. Don’t our officers have better things to do? What if an un-hosted short-term rental opened next door to your house. How would you feel then? Vote for the short-term rental ordinance.

Sharon and Perry Newman South Portland

To the editor:

We encourage voters to vote Yes on Question 4 to increase Maine work force development. A Yes vote would authorize a $49 million investment in the seven universities of the University of Maine System. These funds will be matched dollar for dollar by funds from other sources and the money will be used to address more and better prepared graduates in the critical occupations such as nursing, engineering, education, computer sciences, cybersecurity and technology. For example, this bill will address the anticipated shortfall of 3,200 nurses in Maine by 2025.

This initiative is supported by business groups including the state and local chambers of commerce, various nursing and other professional groups and major state newspapers. Question 4 is an important step to help retain and build businesses key to Maine’s future.

Bob and Jill Blackwood South Portland

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