Short-term accommodation rentals booked online can be a welcome addition to tourist destinations and a disruptive nuisance to residential neighborhoods.
Egg Harbor Township has both within its disconnected sections, so this month it addressed both situations appropriately.
Short-term rentals over the internet are sometimes like an unlicensed motel or rooming house making up its own rules. It doesn’t take many of them before there are complaints about noise, parking, trash or worse.
A central goal of municipal zoning is to separate businesses from residences so those who want a neighborhood for raising a family or just living in peace may have it.
To protect such neighborhoods, dozens of predominantly residential New Jersey municipalities such as Linwood have banned housing rentals for periods shorter than 30 days. That leaves intact the market for renting houses for months and years.
For areas with existing accommodations for visitors and vacations, short-term rentals through online booking services such as Vrbo and Airbnb can add to visitor services and enlarge the seasonal economy — as long as they are registered, monitored and follow some basic rules.
Ocean City requires them to get a mercantile license, have safety inspections and pay a modest one-time fee.
This year Atlantic City — where more than 70 residents had complained about online rentals at an early hearing on them — started requiring them to pay a 3% tax on revenue as well as a dollar a day toward city special events, and to inform guests about local law and expected standards of conduct.
The main part of Egg Harbor Township is full of peaceful neighborhoods, while its separate section in the wetlands behind Absecon Island has areas more in character with the nearby Downbeach communities.
So the Township Committee this month prohibited rentals of less than 30 days for the bulk of the township west of Northfield, Linwood and Somers Point.
However, rooms and houses may be rented for as few as seven days in specific neighborhoods and developments near the island — West Atlantic City, Seaview Harbor and Anchorage Point. That is allowed during the summer tourism season from May 15 through Oct. 15.
Some other municipalities in Cape May and Ocean counties seem like good candidates for this type of hybrid approach to regulating short-term online rentals.
We’re glad to see sensible responses by officials to how the changing accommodations marketplace affects their municipalities. From what was once a contentious and divisive issue, constructive paths forward have been found. Cross off another item — tentatively — from the to-do lists of local officials.