The Prince George's County Council holds its final last legislative session of 2018 at the county administration building in Upper Marlboro on Oct. 23. (Robert Roberts/The Washington Informer)
The Prince George's County Council holds its final last legislative session of 2018 at the county administration building in Upper Marlboro on Oct. 23. (Robert Roberts/The Washington Informer)

By next year, Prince George’s County residents will be prohibited from renting out their properties as short-term rentals.

The 6,000 units that fall into this category include businesses such as Airbnb, which county council members admit has been a problem for a few years for residents who rent out spaces to help supplement their income.

“It brings those 6,000 units into compliance and brings some type of normalcy back to the residential community that has been affected by the bad actors,” Councilwoman Deni Taveras said Friday, Oct. 26, three days after the council unanimously approved legislation to ban the practice when it goes into effect by October 2019.

Last week’s legislative meeting, marking the council’s last session of the year, lasted nearly 14 hours to approve labor agreements, a new zoning ordinance and other business.

As for the short-term legislation proposed by County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, it will ensure homeowners don’t use their property as hosting platforms for more than 30 consecutive days. The legislation restricts a person from renting a property beyond 90 days when the property owner isn’t present and 180 days when an owner remains present.

The total number of days for a short-term rental cannot exceed 180 days.

Although these homeowners aren’t subject to the same standards as a hotel, or motel, they must pay an annual $150 licensing fee and another annual fee of $2,500.

“We have to draw the line to put in some checks and balances on how short-term leases will be held,” said Council Chairman Derrick Davis (D-District 6) of Upper Marlboro. “If we don’t do anything, it’s going to get worse.”

Davis spoke passionately about another piece of the legislation — public campaign finance — during the council’s marathon meeting Oct. 23.

About 17 people spoke in support of the bill that would allow candidates to receive matching funds if they don’t accept donations exceeding $250 from small donors.

The bill resembles one enacted in January 2015 in Montgomery County which allows a person running for elected office to receive tax dollars. The District approved its version this year.

David Van Dyke, the county auditor, said it could cost the county between $3.6 million to $12 million, depending on how many people seek office.

That’s one reason why Davis, Council Chairwoman Dannielle Glaros and council members Derrick Todd Turner and Andrea Harrison didn’t the support the bill.

“This is irresponsible. We don’t have the resources that other jurisdictions have that have implemented this reality,” Davis said more than two hours before the 5-4 vote to pass the bill. “I’m somewhat offended by state representatives who would attempt to spend my money in Prince George’s County not giving me theirs.”

Delegate Joseline Peña-Melnyk (D-District 21) of College Park, who supports the bill, took exception to Davis targeting state officials.

“That is very disrespectful,” Pena-Melynk said to Davis.

“Who said that?” Davis asked.

“I’m the only state representative here,” Pena-Melnyk said.

“Then that’s who I was talking to,” Davis said.

Glaros (D-District 3) of Riverdale Park banged a gavel on the table to return to order.

“We do not have shouting in this forum,” she said.

As for the legislation, all receipts must be labeled with the contributor’s name and residential address.

Councilwoman Karen Toles (D-District 7) of Suitland pushed for revisions that included an assurance the financing would receive racial and gender equality.

The legislation that wouldn’t go into effect until 2026 also received approval from council members Mel Franklin, Mary Lehman, Obie Patterson and Deni Taveras.

“It has to be distributed countywide … makes me feel a little bit more comfortable we have an additional eight years to work on this,” said Toles, who participated in her last meeting due to term limits.

Besides Toles, last week marked the final meeting for Harrison, Lehman and Patterson who are running for state offices. Franklin will be one of the three on the ballot to seek the two at-large seats voters approved two years ago to expand council from nine to 11.

The Fair Elections Coalition, comprised of nonprofit and social justice organizations, released a statement after last week’s vote.

“We applaud Council member Mary Lehman and the County Council for passing this program to give all Prince Georgians an equal voice in local government regardless of wealth, gender, race or age,” said Jennifer Dwyer, policy and legislative director for Progressive Maryland.

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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