Thanks to Gov. Wolf for halting short-term rentals and protecting Pocono residents

| 03 Apr 2020 | 03:36

Editor's note: PA Rep. Rosemary Brown (R-Monroe/Pike) said that after "immense pressure" applied by Pocono legislators, Gov. Tom Wolf’s team contacted Brown to inform her that his administration will now classify short-term rentals as “non-life sustaining,” not “essential," which means they must close, as have restaurants, gyms, and other businesses have done weeks ago. Brown provided the following response to the governor's decision:

I thank the governor for this action and although I have been advocating for weeks on this, sending him information and speaking with his office, I am very pleased he understands how this measure can protect the residents of Pennsylvania, especially the northeast,” stated Brown. “I am extremely pleased our voices were heard and we can move forward on other ways we can help combat this pandemic in our area, that functions very differently than some other areas in Pennsylvania.

Short-term rentals were an immediate concern amid the announcement that COVID-19 made its way to PA. While metropolitan New York’s caseloads began to rise, our region’s proximity and popularity as a vacation destination were at extreme risk. When the Wolf administration announced the closure of all ‘non-life sustaining’ businesses, I contacted the governor’s office for clarification on short-term rentals and was advised that short-term rentals were essential because they are deemed as "shelter."

I have been in consistent, strong communication also with our local hospitals and it was very apparent early on that our medical infrastructure was concerned about controlling the massive influx of out-of-state residents into Pennsylvania. The problem of active short-term rentals became even more apparent as advertisements directed to metropolitan New York were sold as "coronavirus free," "escape the epicenter," and "social distance in comfort." While maintaining pressure on the Wolf administration to examine its approach to the Pocono region, I also sought other local solutions to help until the governor acted. I contacted the Community Association Institute of Pennsylvania (CAI), an advocacy group for private communities, as well as our local private communities to assist. I requested they urge their members and boards to implement emergency bylaw changes as it relates to short-term rentals.

I also wrote a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf, as well as New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey’s Gov. Phil Murphy, asking that they work in tandem to urge their residents to adhere to their respective state’s "shelter-in-place" orders in order to lessen the spread of COVID-19 and ensure individuals were in their primary residences. These efforts built the attention of the Wolf administration and team but hopefully also helped curb some of the transactions within our power locally to protect our community.

On March 30, I asked all state legislators from Monroe, Pike, Wayne and Carbon to jump in full force on a formal letter to Governor Wolf and his need and power to temporarily stop short-term rentals in Pennsylvania to help protect our community. I’m very thankful that Reps. Jack Rader (R-Monroe), Maureen Madden (D-Monroe), Mike Peifer (R-Pike/Wayne), Jonathan Fritz (R-Susquehanna/Wayne), Doyle Heffley (R-Carbon) have communicated their concerns and helped give the extra push to achieve this final measure. The letter asked for a direct response and the next day the governor made the final decision. We are all extremely pleased at the governor’s decision.

It was only with this change we could make a difference and enforce non-compliance legally. While details of this process are still being ironed out, any short-term rental transactions moving forward are NOT allowed and I encourage resident who would like to report a situation to call their local legislator at this time.

PA Rep. Rosemary Brown (R-Monroe/Pike)

East Stroudsburg