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Seaside Park Debates Pros, Cons of Possible ‘Airbnb Ordinance’

Seaside Park's repainted water tank, May 2024. (Photo: Shorebeat)

Seaside Park’s repainted water tank, May 2024. (Photo: Shorebeat)

Should Seaside Park, like many other Jersey Shore communities, adopt an ordinance placing restrictions on short-term rentals in town?

Often referred to as an ‘Airbnb ordinance’ due to the proliferation of web-based home rental platforms in which guests can book overnight or very short stays at a private home, towns up and down the coastline have cracked down on short-term rentals, saying they are often used as party houses and end up generating noise complaints from loud parties and general troublemaking.

Seaside Park has never adopted such an ordinance, but some property owners have asked officials to consider such a measure after noise complaints were called in during Memorial Day Weekend and the first few weekends of the summer season. Other residents, however, do not favor the restrictions, saying families utilize short stays as an affordable trip to the Shore, or come down for event such as weddings or family gatherings and would otherwise be forced to rent rooms at a motel at a steeper cost.

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“Some of the people who’ve raised the point at least wanted us to deliberate this,” Mayor John Peterson said at the most recent borough council meeting. “I’ve heard arguments both ways.”

Police Chief James Boag said his department responds to noise complaints, generally from homes rented by young tenants whose partying sometimes gets out of hand.

“We had issues over Memorial Day Weekend,” he said. “Neighbors called, which allowed police entry onto the property. The owners apparently had cameras set up so they could watch their renters, and the first thing the kids did when they showed up was to pull the plugs on the cameras.”

“The owner probably should’ve called us to check the house,” he explained, “but they didn’t, and the neighbors weren’t happy.”

The noise complaints may have resulted in summonses being issued, and the police department received a call from the borough’s code enforcement office, which handles the administrative side of complaints regarding rental units. In Seaside Park, owners of rental properties must obtain a rental certificate of occupancy and undergo an annual inspection. But the borough does not regulate the time periods of rentals.

Borough Attorney Steven Zabarsky, who represents several Shore communities in different capacities, said neighboring towns have enacted ordinances that range from very restrictive to very basic in terms of what is and is not allowed. He cited Point Pleasant Beach’s ordinance and Brick Township’s ordinance on short-term rentals as representations of the two sides of that range, suggesting Seaside Park could craft an ordinance to address its specific issues.

“Most of the barrier island towns have a short-term rental requirement of at least seven days because they don’t want weekend renters to rent a house, have a huge party and leave,” said Zabarsky. “Then, they have all kinds of inspection requirements.”

In Point Pleasant Beach, he said, year-round residents and seasonal homeowners voiced support for restrictions on short-term rentals, which often attract partiers who take the train to town and utilize the boardwalk and its many bars. Seaside Park, he said, would likely consider a less restrictive measure.

“In Point Beach, they have more of a problem than we do because of the boardwalk,” he said. “Point Pleasant Beach even goes into advertising – you can’t advertise for weekend rentals. The realtor or whoever does the advertising can be issued a summons, and they do it all the time. It happens frequently, and they’re probably the most restrictive.”

Point Pleasant Beach requires the registration of the names of occupants and notices to be posted on doors in addition to time restrictions.

“But that’s Point Pleasant Beach, we’re a different town and have different issues,” he said.

Seaside Heights regulates short-term rentals based on the time of year – “prom season” includes the most restrictive measures – but Brick Township’s ordinance is more basic in nature.

“Brick’s is probably the least restrictive – they just said, ‘off the barrier island, you can’t rent for less than seven days,'” Zabarsky explained. “Maybe there’s somewhere in between for Seaside Park.”

While residents agree that homes should not be rented out purely as “animal houses,” resident Shirley Kreszl, who spoke at the meeting, said services like Airbnb also bring quality renters to town.

“There are some times when people just need to rent a couple of days,” she told council members. “It could be a wedding, it could be a graduation, or a family reunion.”

She suggested the borough more strictly enforce its existing ordinance that subjects property owners to a revocation of their rental certificate of occupancy if there are three instances of troublesome tenants identified over the course of a year.

“I don’t think making it seven days is fair, because then you’re telling people they have to go to a motel,” she said. “With inflation, a lot of people can’t afford to rent a whole week down here – they want to rent a couple days, so I really think you need to look into that.”

Peterson said the borough’s land use committee will consider the issue as a whole and make a recommendation as to whether an ordinance is needed and how restrictive it should be.

“Some towns call them ‘Airbnb regulations,’ and some towns have different seasons, some towns have two-week minimums,” he said. “It’s something people have asked us to consider.”

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