Akron adopts short-term rental ordinance

By on April 24, 2019

Looking for a nice place to stay in Akron?

Preferably in a private home, with comfortable accommodations and friendly hosts?

Well, you’re in luck.

Airbnb’s website currently lists 10 such homes in Akron, with rates ranging from $40 a night to $129, and averaging about $85 a night.

Those 10 rentals are among the 66 that pop up when you key “Akron, Pa.” into the Airbnb website. The other 56 are for nearby properties in Ephrata, Lititz and other towns.

Airbnb and other internet companies have created a huge market for homeowners looking for paying guests. Some of those homeowners do live in Akron, and borough officials have grown increasingly concerned about the potential for problems.

At its regular borough council meeting on Monday, March 15, council unanimously adopted an ordinance to regulate the short-term rental business. Key provisions address issues of parking, noise, trash and the number of guests allowed. A short-term rental is defined as a stay of less than 30 days.

One provision that has vexed municipalities dealing with the short-term rental issue has been the location of the owner. If the owner of an Akron property were to live in Connecticut, that owner presumably would have more of an interest in the rental income than he or she would have in the condition of the property or the behavior of the guests.

The new Akron ordinance addresses the absentee landlord issue by stipulating that the property owner must be a resident of the borough. The Lancaster County Planning Commission had suggested to the borough that the owner of a short-term rental property should actually live on the property.

Council briefly deliberated that suggestion, but felt it was too restrictive. They felt that requiring property owners to be borough residents would tend to mitigate absentee landlord issues.
The ordinance is posted online at the borough’s website and can be viewed by going to www.akron-pa.com/documents/2018shorttermrentalpermit.pdf.

Following the passage of that ordinance, council passed a resolution to adopt a fee schedule to cover the cost of the short-term rental licensing program. Initially, the licensing fee is $600 to cover the actual cost of inspections and paperwork by the borough’s zoning and permitting officers. The annual renewal fee is $300. A fee of $30 per day will be applied to any late payments. If those scheduled fees fall short of the actual costs, council can amend the resolution at any time.

Borough Manager Sue Davidson said any property owner currently offering short-term rentals will be given time to apply for a license.
A property owner who continues to operate without a license, and then decides to get a license will be charged an initial fee of $1,000.

Another hot topic at the March 15 meeting was the issue of parking on the south side of Oak Street. Mike Anderson, an Oak Street resident, said customers of the Enterprise Rent-a-Car business park directly across the street from his property. Rental customers leave their personal cars parked on the street, sometimes as much as 18 inches from the curb, for periods up to 10 days. Anderson said the randomly parked cars inhibit his ability to maneuver his trailer into his driveway. He also said his truck sustained some minor damage when it was hit by a rental customer’s vehicle, who drove off without leaving a note.

Anderson and his father, Tom, also an Oak Street resident, suggested that the borough create a no-parking zone on their section of Oak Street. Akron Police Chief Tom Zell pointed out that solving their problem with a no-parking zone in that one neighborhood might encourage other neighborhoods to ask for similar arrangements. It would be difficult to accommodate all the requests for no-parking zones, he noted.

Council President John Williamson said that a cease and desist letter had been sent to Enterprise on April 1 in an attempt to deal with the issue. He said the borough would continue to address the problem.

Ephrata Police Officer Paul Moore appeared before council to present his yearly update on his work as the Ephrata Area School District school resource officer. His job is to work with students, parents, teachers, administrators, bus drivers and other staff in the district’s eight schools.

He deals with truancy, drugs, safety, mental health and all the issues that can impede classroom work. One issue he said that has become more compelling is cybersecurity. The internet and social media pose dangers to children who can unwittingly connect to dangerous characters.

He said when he started teaching cybersecurity, it was to ninth graders. Now he’s dealing with fourth-graders who have their own phones which can be gateways to trouble. And he thinks maybe there’ll be a time when he’ll have to address the issue with even younger students.

A Hillcrest Road resident appeared before council with a request for relief from a water main easement that interfered with his wish to build a garage on top of the easement. No main exists there now, Council President Williamson noted, but at some point the borough might want to install a water main through the property. He suggested that rather than abandoning the easement, the borough would be agreeable to rerouting the easement so it still crossed the homeowner’s property, but didn’t interfere with his construction plans.

In other business:
• Council approved a resolution to form a citizen’s committee to guide the borough’s implementation of the recently completed comprehensive plan. The committee will meet four times a year.
• Police Chief Tom Zell reported that a known drug house on South Ninth Street continues to be a public safety threat. Police have confiscated guns and large quantities of drugs from people there.
Authorities reached out to the landlord for help in cleaning up the nuisance property, but the owner has not responded.
• Darryl Witmer, chairman of council’s special projects committee, said an Akron Pride day is planned for the morning of Saturday, April 27. Participants with trash bags will fan out across the town to pick up trash and take it back to Broad Street park for disposal. The event is scheduled to run from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.
• Witmer also reminded council that the first annual Akron Doggie Day in the Park is scheduled for May 19.

Dick Wanner is a reporter/photographer with the Ephrata Review. He can be reached at rwanner.eph@lnpnews.com. 

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