Vacation rentals are becoming a contentious issue in Marathon. The crowd at the Marathon Fire House station filled the seats for the Wednesday workshop with the Marathon City Council.
Many of the spectators were disgruntled that it will be difficult to make meaningful changes to Marathon’s ordinance without running afoul of the state. Currently, Marathon’s laws governing the rentals is “grandfathered”; any attempt to change the law could results in reverting to the state law which allows vacation rental homes to be rented by the night, with few other restrictions.
At the meeting, the most common complaints voiced by residents regarded trash cans being left out on the street for days. They also mentioned vehicles parked illegally, overcrowding, noises, loosed dogs and theft from neighboring properties.
Code Compliance chief Stacy Charlton said the city only received only 22 complaints over the last 12 months. Only 11 were valid: loose trash and trash cans (5), advertising violations (2), rentals without current license (2), parking complaint (1) and withholding a security deposit (1).
“I think the most important thing for people to understand is that if they don’t complain, the city can’t do anything about it,” she said.
Currently, Marathon’s vacation rental ordinance allows for rentals no less than 7 days up to 28 days. The occupancy is limited to two persons per bedroom, plus two extra occupants. Homeowners must have a vacation rental licenses that costs $500 the first year and $250 a year thereafter, plus other county and state requirements. Also, trash must be covered and put out no sooner than 6 p.m. the night before and pickup and cans removed by the end of the day of pickup. City officials say there are approximately 500 licensed vacation rentals within Marathon.
“There are already rules in place,” said Marathon Councilman Mark Senmartin. “What’s needed is more enforcement.”
He suggested flagging the addresses of troublesome vacation rental homes in the computer and then pulling monthly reports. He also suggested increasing the license fee to $1,000 for the first year and $750 for annual renewal and increasing the cost of vacation rental violation fines. The council said the increase in fees could pay for a city employee and vehicle devoted solely to vacation rental overview.
“I think it’s ridiculous to hire a person for 22 complaints,” said Paul Labossiere of Re/Max Realty. “If in 2015 there are 500 complaints, then we have an issue.”
Dave Addison, who owns two vacation rentals in Marathon, said it was unfair to make law-abiding vacation rental agents bear the brunt of a few scofflaws by increasing the annual license costs.
“I am for bigger fines. Fine them a $1,000 and don’t coddle them. Don’t hit me in the pocketbook because I am following the law. I think you have this backwards.”
Claire Angermann of Conch Realty received a round of applause for her suggestion:
“Why can’t we just get new trashcans? This problem could be solved in one instant with trashcans with fitted lids like the recycling bins.”
Councilman Dan Zieg said the bulk of the complaints arise from just a few areas in Marathon.
“Let’s step up observation and enforcement in those areas with the goal of having 22 complaints go down to 0 next year,” Zieg said.
The council said they will continue to brainstorm solutions with staff.