Maryland’s Coastal Association of REALTORS® Battles Restrictions on Short-Term Rentals

The local REALTOR® association representing three counties on Maryland’s Eastern Shore was aware that Worcester County was looking to overhaul its outdated rental code, but was expecting the effort to focus on clarity and uniformity of language. What was presented was a set of severe restrictions on short-term rentals, which is naturally a major issue in coastal communities. When some of the County Commissioners proved unreceptive to the REALTORS®’ initial advocacy, it was time to call on the Land Use Initiative and Advocacy Everywhere programs. The County Commission heard the message loud and clear, and sent its proposal back to the drawing board.

Sarah Rayne, Government and Public Affairs Director of the 1,000+ member Coastal Association of REALTORS® of Maryland, recalls the list of restrictions the County Commission was proposing:  “They wanted to limit the number of ‘unrelated’ people in a short-term rental unit to five; to require all short-term rental units to install an extra parking space; to define ‘short-term’ as under twenty-eight days; and even to prohibit birthday parties, showers, and other special events. The REALTORS®’ position is that a short-term rental is still residential, and so all these restrictions were simply unfair.” The ordinance also sought to create a rental license requirement, which Rayne notes that the REALTORS® do not oppose, as long as the fee is not exorbitant.

While the REALTORS® have strong relationships with most of the Worcester County Commissioners, it was clear that their first efforts at direct advocacy were not getting through to some. So, Rayne commissioned a Land Use Initiative review of the proposed ordinance to analyze land use and zoning legislation. “I’ve worked with them a number of times, and they’re always great – they seem to thrive on tight deadlines,” she says. “This time, they sent us sixteen pages of very useful information, which we condensed into a brief position statement and sent to our members, the media, and the County Commissioners.”

Just a few days prior to the vote, some of the Commissioners were still resistant to the REALTORS®’ reasoning. “That’s when we realized, ‘Ok – we need to get our members involved!’” says Rayne.  “We’re a small association, but our members are great, and very supportive of our Government Affairs efforts and advocacy.”  Rayne called on Susan Mitchell, Director of Government Affairs for the Maryland REALTORS®, who activated an Advocacy Everywhere effort using REALTOR® Party Mobile Alerts. “It’s such an effective program,” says Rayne, “it was very easy for our members to respond.” And respond they did: the alert went out on a Friday, and over the course of the weekend, the seven Worcester County Commissioners were bombarded by more than 630 emails from 90 unique addresses.

At the next meeting of the County Commission, several members of the Coastal Association of REALTORS® of Maryland were present and testified on behalf of property owners.

The Commission voted to approve the creation of a rental license and sent the rest of the proposed ordinance back to staff for re-drafting. “They’ll be addressing many of the REALTORS®’ concerns in the re-write,” explains Rayne, adding, “It was a definite win for property owners and our members. I’m certain that our call for action made a big difference.” Although the association is small, she says, REALTOR® Party resources help it achieve results that are relatively major. “I’m a big fan of all these tools that allow us to create such an impact!”

To learn more about how the Coastal Association of REALTORS® of Maryland is protecting the rights of homeowners in Worcester County and beyond, contact Government and Public Affairs Director Sarah Rayne at 410-641-4409.

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Local Maryland Association Takes Bold, Successful Step into Politics

In the space of a single campaign season, a 380-member association representing three counties on Maryland’s Eastern Shore went from being quietly a-political to being all-in, no-looking-back, politically involved. It was a one-day REALTOR® Party program on identifying REALTOR® Champions that lit a fire under the Bay Area Association of REALTORS® (BAAR), and of the thirteen candidates it endorsed in the general election, twelve were victorious in their races for County Commissioner, Sheriff, and State’s Attorney – all elected offices that have the potential to affect the local real estate market.

Bob Friday, the association’s Executive Vice President, credits his former Government Affairs Director with encouraging BAAR to apply for the REALTOR® Party training program. “A few of our members were vehemently opposed to our becoming politically engaged,” he says. “But our Board examined the opportunity carefully, and determined that it was in the best interests of the industry and our association to endorse candidates who share our values and positions regarding real estate and private property rights. We simply did the best we could to reason with our dissenting members; regrettably, we did lose two,” he notes. “It’s unfortunate, but our members need to understand the purpose of our organization. If we’re not going to walk the walk, then forget it.”

The REALTOR® Party’s Candidate Training Academy is offered just a few times every year, and BAAR felt lucky to get it, says Friday. “We invited the neighboring Mid-Shore Board of REALTORS® to join us at the training session, where a terrific consultant came up from North Carolina to show us all what to look for in a REALTOR® Champion,” he explains. Five BAAR REALTORS® who’d participated in the training became the association’s candidate selection committee, in addition to Friday, who served without a vote.

The BAAR selection committee then sent invitations to all candidates in the three counties it covers who were in challenged primary races for local offices. They interviewed a total of thirty-six candidates, reports Friday, and decided to endorse eleven candidates, ten of whom made it through to the general election; in the general election, BAAR endorsed thirteen candidates of whom twelve won the offices they were seeking. The REALTORS® signaled their endorsement through a full-page ad in the local newspaper supporting all its chosen candidates. “Needless to say, we were very pleased with the outcome of our selections, and grateful for the tremendous help NAR provided in teaching us the do’s and don’ts of this process,” says Friday.

He adds that having publicly endorsed candidates has given BAAR an entirely new level of visibility and respect in the community. “Those elected are extremely grateful, and some have approached us seeking to appoint our members to various boards and commissions in the counties we serve,” he reports. “At least one has said to me, ‘I wouldn’t have won without the REALTORS®’ endorsement.’”

To learn more about how REALTORS® are helping to shape local politics affecting real estate- and property rights-issues in three counties in eastern Maryland, contact Bob Friday, Executive Vice President of the Bay Area Association of REALTORS®, at 410-758-4866.

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Prince George’s County Mounts Winning Campaigns for County Council Candidates — Times Three!

When the association representing the Maryland region due east of the nation’s Capital gets behind a County Council candidate, it doesn’t do so lightly. This spring, the Prince George’s County Association of REALTORS® (PGCAR) successfully backed three REALTOR® Champions: two REALTOR® members and one former REALTOR®, all three more than ready to tackle the private property issues facing the county in the upcoming 2019-2023 term.

“This was no small task, says PGCAR Executive Vice President Mike Graziano. “There were formidable opponents in each race, and we put plenty of thought in to our decision to back candidates. By the time we went to the REALTOR® Party for help, we were already heavily vested in these candidates.” PGCAR had conducted a Candidate Training Program late in 2017, in partnership with the Southern Maryland Association of REALTORS®; it was attended by one of the PGCAR members who won a seat in last month’s election. PGCAR also put together a REALTOR® ballot to guide and inform its 3,000 members, listing those it supported and endorsed in all of the county and state races. And then, with the support of the REALTOR® Party, it ran Independent Expenditure campaigns for the three REALTOR® Champion candidates running in open seats.

Dwayne Mingo, PGCAR’s Government Affairs Director, says “I’ve been involved in plenty of campaigns in my time, but this was my first rodeo with the REALTORS®. The Campaign Services team at NAR assisted me through the process the entire way. I made our pitch to the REALTOR® Party Trustees for Campaign Services Committee, and they turned it around quickly for us: we had our response the next day, complete with a suggested strategy and ideas about graphics.” A campaign was built to increase the branding and name recognition of each of the three candidates. Mingo worked closely with the team at NAR on language for the online advertising and the two carefully timed mailers promoting each one:

Jolene Ivey, a REALTOR® member who had represented Prince George’s County in the Maryland General Assembly, won her seat for District 5.

Monique Anderson-Walker, running against a current state delegate with significant name recognition, won the seat for District 8.

Sydney Harrison, a former REALTOR® who’d been supported by PGCAR in his successful 2014 bid to unseat the 18-year incumbent for the county Clerk of Court position, won the County Council seat for District 9.

Harrison’s election, in particular, was a very close shave: he won by a matter of just 55 votes. “There’s no doubt that the REALTOR® Party support helped to push Sydney over the top,” says Graziano. “We’d recognized during his first election, four years ago, that Sydney’s dedicated community spirit meant he was in this for the long haul. We know he’ll be a voice for REALTOR® interests for years to come, and we’re proud to have helped him to achieve his political aspirations this far.”

“Of course PGCAR was elated that our involvement assisted to elect three REALTORS® to our local County Council. This means that our voice will always be heard and relevant on property rights and land use issues. The process to make the IEs happen was simplistic but the results — social media posts and thousands of top quality mailers in three legislative districts — was huge and we believe made a big difference in putting these REALTOR® Champions over the top in tough races. Thank you to NAR’s Campaign Services Team,” said Cheryl Abrams Davis, 2018 PGCAR President.

PGCAR has a tried and tested process for vetting candidates for endorsement and support, including a comprehensive questionnaire on real estate issues. But, because of the strict rules prohibiting communication between candidates and independent expenditure campaigns, the support of the REALTOR® Party comes as a major surprise when it hits the mailboxes and screens of the chosen candidates, themselves. Says Mingo, “I saw Monique Anderson-Walker at a meeting not long after the election, and she gave me a big hug, telling me how shocked she’d been. Our vote of confidence and tangible support will clearly stay with her as she works for real estate issues in the coming four-year term.”

Those issues, says Mingo, will include such challenges as re-writing the county’s zoning regulations for the first time in 30 years; forming a comprehensive housing strategy; and keeping one of the highest transfer tax rates in the state of Maryland from getting any higher. While the REALTORS® did not conduct an independent campaign for the new County Executive, they did make a significant RPAC contribution to her campaign, notes Graziano. With three new champions on the Council, and a favorable relationship with the County Executive-elect, Prince George’s County REALTORS® can be assured that the issues that matter to them are in good hands.

To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Prince George’s County are using REALTOR® Party resources to support REALTOR® Champions, contact Government Affairs Director Dwayne Mingo at 301-306-7900.


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REALTORS® in MD & LA Put Halt on Using Eminent Domain to Seize Underwater Mortgages

REALTORS® in Maryland and Louisiana ran successful issue campaigns to stop local governments from using their power of eminent domain to seize underwater mortgages.  The Maryland Association got a two-year moratorium on the practice while the state legislature studies the issue.  The Louisiana Association got an all-out ban on the practice.  These successful campaigns follow on the heels of NAR’s adoption of a policy strongly opposing use of eminent domain for this purpose.

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