West Cocalico supervisors consider new zoning standards

By on April 10, 2019

On April 4, West Cocalico supervisors took a step further towards enacting a new set of zoning ordinance standards for short-term rentals.

It’s something that the township has been working on in one form or another for two years. As AirBnB and similar setups are causing the proliferation of short-term rental businesses across the country, public planners are left to deal with the fallout, in the form of things like overcrowded homes, trash and noise nuisance claims, and general liability.

As supervisors prepared to approve advertising a draft ordinance for public review, chairman James J. Stoner expressed disappointment with the county’s planners, saying there wasn’t much guidance for municipalities on the issue.

A copy of the draft obtained by Ephrata Review shows the new agreement would require certain emergency information to be posted at the short-term rental property. The ordinance also includes rules on trash, parking, payment of hotel/room tax, and more.

Before voting to approve the draft for advertisement, though, the board was set a complicated math problem in the form of bed arrangements at an existing short-term rental business at 310 S. Cocalico Road.

In an existing contract with the township, the operator, Josh Martin, is allowed to have a total of 12 bedding units in six bedrooms. A double bed that sleeps two people counts as two bedding units.
Martin, who was present at the supervisor’s meeting, asked the board for permission to put two double beds in each bedroom which, according to the current agreement, would result in 24 bedding units.

“A lot of people are complaining,” Martin said of a current setup where only two bedding units (for instance, one double bed) are in each room. “They don’t want to share a bed with someone who’s not their partner.”

Martin specified that the total of beds installed would be less than 12.
“Some of the rooms are that small, I couldn’t get two doubles in them,” he said.

Still, supervisors balked at allowing more beds than what would sleep the current occupancy limit, citing sewer system limitations and past violation of a prior agreement with the property owner.

Instead, supervisors suggested that Martin should go to the township’s zoning hearing board and ask to be governed by the new ordinance, which, if passed, would allow for a total of two adults per room, without specifying bed units.

“We want to work with people here,” said supervisor Jeff Sauder of the provisions in the new draft ordinance.

“If they grant it to you,” Stoner told Martin, “then nobody can touch you — as long as you stay within that envelope.”

“It gives for more consistency,” said supervisors vice chair Leon Eby of putting all of the short term rental businesses under the same ordinance.

However, the new ordinance is not a done deal: residents have 30 days to review it and the board plans to vote on final adoption late in May.

Justin Stoltzfus is a correspondent for The Ephrata Review.

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