24 Feb 2017
Dear Smith Island Residents and Friends,
I'm thrilled to report that we had great success in Annapolis yesterday at the Maryland State Senate Finance Committee Hearing for Senate Bill 463- Short Term Rentals. There's still a long road ahead, but we are very optimistic!
The bill, as it was originally written, would have a devastating impact on Smith Island's tourism industry, as it puts overwhelming and prohibitive financial, administrative and renovation requirements on homeowners who rent their homes, as well as bed and breakfasts, to visitors who are staying for less than 30 days.
Thanks to SIU's Eddie Somers and State Senator Mathias, I was able to meet with the Senator's staff on Tuesday morning to go through every single line of the bill in detail, and share with them our questions, concerns and suggested amendments (i.e. revisions) to the bill.
Yesterday (Wednesday, February 22nd) in the morning, we met with national and local lobbyists who are opposing the bill, and again, we shared with them our questions, concerns and proposed revisions, and strategized the best approach to testifying in front of the Senate Finance Committee yesterday afternoon.
THANK YOU so very much to Michele Davidson and Tom & Charlotte Lilly for their impassioned and compelling verbal testimony to the Senate Finance Committee yesterday afternoon, and to Lance & Kristy Dize, Rob & Linda Kellogg and Cindy Monshower & Brian Cobb for emailing us such articulate and heartfelt written testimony, which we were able to submit to the Senators ahead of the hearing for their review. And thank you to many of you who emailed and called with words of encouragement- it's a tribute to all of you that you came together, and once again, YOU MADE CHANGE HAPPEN TO PROTECT AND UPHOLD Smith Island's economy, ideals and community for generations to come.
Smith Islander's were not alone in their opposition to the bill- there were about 20 or so other homeowners and B & B owners from around Maryland who also spoke very eloquently in opposition, as well as a very strong group of national and local lobbyists.
OUR VOICES WERE HEARD! The Senators were very supportive of our perspective, and the hotel industry lobbyists (who are driving the bill) are already putting an amendment on the table that removes the sprinkler installation requirement, and it was suggested yesterday that ADA retrofits, and much of the administrative burden would likely be removed from the bill. There are still questions of taxes, requirements of licensing and exact definitions of what types of "lodgings" will fall under the bill (folks in opposition to the bill encouraged the Committee that if it is passed, the bill should only apply to large multi-family buildings, and not the smaller one-three family homes or B & B's.)
The next step is for the Senators to convene a "Working Group" (which we are going to ask to be a part of), and then the bill will go to a vote with whichever amendments are added- this will likely all happen with the next week or so.
If you would like to watch the Senate Finance Committee hearing, click on the following link:
There were over 4 hours of hearings (starting at 1pm) before they got to our Bill 463 at around 4:45pm. If you'd like to watch the testimony that me, Michele and Tom gave, then fast forward to about "4:05" minutes on the Video. If you want to watch the entire hearing related to Bill 463, rewind about 20 minutes before our testimony.
Also, let me know if you'd like to see the power point presentation that went with my testimony which the Senators watched while I spoke, and I will email it to you.
A silver lining of all of this is that the hearing was actually a wonderful opportunity to showcase Smith Island's flourishing and expanding tourism industry. Many of the Senators mentioned how impressed they were with not only our testimony, but how much Smith Island residents had achieved in such a short time since the Visioning Sessions- CONGRATULATIONS!
Last but not least, I have to say how inspiring it was to see our democracy in action- that our freedom of speech, our ideas, our experience, were not only respected, but given deep consideration by all.
I continue to be humbled and feel so honored to work with all of you- those on Smith Island, and those in government and our community partners throughout the State of Maryland- thank you for your unwavering support in making Smith Island's Vision Plan a reality!
Smith Island Implementation Coordinator