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Springfield abandons its plan for regulation of short-term rentals


Springfield supervisors are leaving the regulation of short-term rentals to future regulators.

The issue dogged supervisors for five meetings, with board members bogged down in a Brexit-style impasse over whether to make the rentals principle or accessory uses.

The planning commission argued for the latter option, crafting an ordinance that called for the rental to be the primary residence of the operator obtaining the license, with strict restrictions on the number of days permitted to rent; no restrictions, planners stressed, would encourage outsiders to buy up multiple properties and use them exclusively for year-round short-term rentals, with a largely transient population paying no earned income or real estate taxes to the township. Township counsel Scott MacNair warned supervisors that doing nothing meant the township could be subject to litigation. “You won’t be able to say we don’t permit that.”

“I don’t see short-term rentals as a problem for us now or even in the future,” replied Robert Zisko, who led the call for zero oversight, the norm for most county municipalities. Supervisor Tony Matzura who initially favored regulation along with Supervisors Karen Bedics and James Nilsen, later complained of overregulation, suggesting the ordinance resembled a homeowners association guide with its detailed requirements for residences.

Seeing that the board was hopelessly deadlocked on the matter, planning commission member Jay Fuggiti expressed his frustration, saying the township now risked homes being turned into “hotels” by developers.

At the close of the meeting, Supervisor Bedics, who repeatedly warned of the consequences of no regulation, confirmed that the issue had been tabled indefinitely.

It’s estimated that there are currently half a dozen rentals, popularized by the site AirBnB, operating in the township but none has drawn the noise or traffic complaints that have beset other municipalities in high-demand areas.

In other news, some familiar faces are returning to serve Springfield Township.

Township supervisors appointed former Treasurer Jason Wager, interim township manager during Manager Mike Brown’s leave of absence.

Wager, who resigned in 2016 to become township manger of Union Township, Berks County, will be paid $40 per hour for any work offsite and $50 per hour for work performed onsite. His income will be capped at $1,600 per week, and he will receive no other benefits. Allentown firm Barry Issett & Associates will handle Brown’s zoning duties.

Board members also agreed to send a plaque to former Supervisor Chairman Dave Long for his 10 years of service. “Dave handled a lot of rough meetings very professionally. He will be missed on the board,” said Supervisor Bedics. Long’s replacement is veteran Supervisor Jim Hopkins, who will serve through 2021.