A recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling on short term rentals hopefully can be applied to a situation in Palmyra Township- Pike, says local real estate broker, George Irish who lives in the private community in question.

PALMYRA TWP. (Pike) - A recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling on short term rentals hopefully can be applied to a situation in Palmyra Township- Pike, says local real estate broker, George Irish who lives in the private community in question.

He asked the supervisors, May 8, that based on that ruling, that the Township would order a “cease and desist” order against a property owner at White Sand Springs in Tafton who Irish said purchased two lots with the expressed intent not to live there, but to conduct a short-term rental business.

About a year ago he and three or four other homeowners came before the supervisors to complain about this situation. He related that the Township at the time rightly said that they had no authority to stop that type of activity in the private, single-family residential community.

“In as much as the Supreme Court now has made this ruling… and the chances of overturning that law are nil to none… that’s what I am told… I ask this board to direct the zoning officer to issue a stop order on future rentals, on the two properties I am identifying…”

Court ruling

On April 26, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided without dissension that short-term rentals in areas zoned for “single housekeeping units” is not consistent with Pennsylvania legal precedent and governmental policy. The ruling was expected to impact the popular online rentals of single-family homes in the state through companies such as Home Away and Air BnB (as reported May 7, 2019, at www.jdsupra.com).

The Supreme Court reversed a 2017 Commonwealth Court decision concerning the case, Slice of Life v. Hamilton Township Zoning Hearing Board. Hamilton Township is in Monroe County. The matter had first been appealed to Monroe County Court in 2016.
Irish said that 90% of the residents at White Sand Springs feel as he does. “…We just don’t want transient rentals in that community. However, as a realtor, broker, I support rentals in this community.” Irish said he realizes this will be difficult for the township to address, but stressed that the White Sand Springs matter mirrors the case that came before the PA Supreme Court.

He said that other townships are looking at making a minimum rental time of 30 days; others talk about allowing no rentals at all.

Peace and welfare

“These short term renters come into our community and disturb our peace and our welfare,” Irish said. “Such as people… at White Sand Springs leave on a Sunday night and throw bags of garbage out on the roads. Such as people taking guns at White Sand Springs and going up to an area what we call the rock area, and shooting.” He said he is aware that Palmyra Township passed a very effective short term rental ordinance but it needs someone to enforce it.

Irish reasoned that with the backing of the Supreme Court, the Township now has the authority to stop the situation he has described with the two houses at White Sand Springs.

“This will have a disastrous impact on the welfare of… hundreds of people who have purchased in our Lake Region with the intent to rent their house part time to maybe offset costs of taxes and other expenses. It will be very unfair to take it away from these folks,” Irish said. In the case of the property owner in question at White Sand Springs, however, he said the man is running it strictly as a business.

Doesn’t enforce deed restrictions

The supervisors deferred to their solicitor Anthony Waldron, since as a board they had not had a chance to review the Supreme Court ruling with him.

Waldron stated he is very familiar with the case the Supreme Court addressed. He noted that the Township cannot enforce deed restrictions. Tanglwood Lakes Association, for example, took some action last fall on whether they would allow property owners to do something based on their deed restrictions.

“We don’t enforce deed restrictions; we do enforce the use of property, that’s what zoning is about,” Waldron said. “There are deed restrictions that even if we allowed something in a zone, the deed restriction could prohibit it. The Township would not enforce that, but… the developer or the association that takes over from the developer would have the right to enforce those, so could individual property owners.”

The Township rental ordinance has been in effect since 2014 and has since been amended. The Township enforces their permit requirements, Waldron said. Palmyra is the only township bordering Lake Wallenpaupack with a short term rental ordnance.

The Supreme Court did not ban short term rentals, he noted but the Court agreed with Hamilton Township that the rental activity was not a single family use and was commercial in nature. The Commonwealth Court, on the other hand, had previously ruled it was a residential use.

He said it will take time for the Township to decide how to apply the ruling, but it doesn’t prevent the development from taking action.

Waldron said they will address it and hopes to be able to have at least a preliminary point of view within a month.