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South Portland Continues Short-Term Rentals Debate

After an emotionally-charged city council meeting, South Portland is set to either repeal a second version of its short-term rental ordinance or send it to voters in November.South Portland's strict rules would prohibit many unhosted short-term rentals in the city's residential neighborhoods. But opponents challenged them with a successful petition drive, which forced the council to reconsider them.

At a council meeting Tuesday, some residents who support the rules raised concerns about rotating renters or houses sitting empty nearby.

Daniel Romano says neighborhoods lose something when houses are occupied by short-term renters.

“What do we lose with STRs? My neighbors across the street are going to have a baby,” Romano said at the meeting. “I'm so excited about this, another child in my neighborhood that I get to watch grow up. We lose that sense of community.”

Ken Thomas runs Air BnBs in Portland and South Portland. He opposes the rules, and he says that the ordinance isn't based on fair debate.

“It's not based on an open dialogue, it's not based on the opinions of informed citizens,” says Thomas. “It's based on a few people, and a few, perhaps, bad actors in the short-term rental community. That's not the entirety of this story and that story must be told.”

People also spoke against the ordinance on the grounds that the City Council hasn't handled the issue transparently, that fears about short-term rentals are overblown, and that the rules would restrict people who are just trying to make a living.

Both sides seemed to agree the ordinance should go to referendum.

Nora is originally from the Boston area but has lived in Chicago, Michigan, New York City and at the northern tip of New York state. Nora began working in public radio at Michigan Radio in Ann Arbor and has been an on-air host, a reporter, a digital editor, a producer, and, when they let her, played records.