Ephrata Township municipal building zonepic

Ephrata Township offices, located at 265 Akron Road, Ephrata.

When: Supervisors meeting, Jan. 17.

What happened: Township officials continued a discussion on short-term rentals and possibly amending the zoning ordinance to regulate properties. Although no official action was taken, a potential amendment would affect properties listed on Airbnb and VRBO.

Why it matters: Township Manager Steve Sawyer said the discussion to revisit amending the short-term rental ordinance originated from a Dec. 20 zoning hearing board meeting. Thirty residents from Meadow Creek Estates spoke against a zoning application where a townhome unit would be converted into a short-term rental use. The proximity of nearby housing dwellings caused concern, as each building has four townhome units.

Suggestion: Sawyer said he thinks the board of supervisors “should take a look at” which zoning districts should allow short-term rentals. One suggestion is to limit short-term rentals to only the low-density residential and agricultural zoning districts. Zerbe expressed support for short-term rentals to be prohibited in Ephrata’s middle- and high-density residential districts. He also stated he “completely agreed” with banning use for townhomes and apartments in all districts.

Current regulation: The township currently allows short-term rentals with a special exception granted by the Zoning Hearing Board in all zoning districts. However, a short-term rental cannot be in an accessory building such as a barn or a garage. Last April, supervisors approved an amendment on the number of calendar days the property would be used as a short-term rental.

Nearby regulations: Neighboring Akron Borough, and West Cocalico Township were among the 14 municipalities who have adopted regulations, according to the Lancaster County Planning Commission. Akron permits short-term rentals in all zoning districts and the owner of the dwelling must be a borough resident. On the contrary, West Cocalico only allows short-term rental properties by special exception in A-1 and A-2 Agricultural and Woodland districts. While prohibiting them in Village Center, Rural, Village and Special Residential districts.

Representative’s reaction: State Rep. Keith Greiner said the issue of short-term properties among municipal governments is “pretty impactful” and “serious.” He told Board of Supervisors Chair Clark Stauffer that the township is “ahead of the curve” on the issue and noting a foundation for regulation is there. He also said Lancaster County was very interested in how its municipalities have a mix of rural and nonrural characteristics.

Quotable: "One size isn’t going to fit all,” Greiner said.

Next meeting: Sawyer said the township Zoning Hearing Board will render their final decision on that application later this month. The board of supervisors will hold its next meeting on Feb. 7 at 7 p.m.

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