Frustration and tension mounts in Ross Township, one short-term rental at center
Residents of High Point Drive in Ross Township returned Monday evening to voice their frustration with the short-term rental property on their street.
The house at 257 High Point is owned by All Pocono Rentals LLC, and advertised as a five-bedroom vacation rental.
Supervisors enacted their short-term rental ordinance in July. Village commercial and general commercial are the only two zones where properties can be rented for less than 30 days.
This house is not in either of the permitted zones.
Residents said fireworks, four-wheelers and loud music occur at all hours.
It is one of a handful of short-term rental properties in the township that burden residents and increase the workload of the township supervisors, staff and zoning officer.
“I feel bad for the residents who live near short-term rentals. I wish I could make the rentals stop. But there is a process. These properties are all over the county and there are cases in the magistrates’ offices. Every municipality is struggling with them,” said Ross Township Zoning Officer Maureen Minnick on Tuesday morning.
Through her employment with Bureau Veritas, she serves Ross part-time and is the part-time zoning officer in Jim Thorpe. She also serves as Foster Township’s (Luzerne County) alternate sewer enforcement officer and works for a local surveyor in Marshalls Creek.
“The common denominator is the short-term rentals within the entire Pocono Mountains area,” she said.
There are five or six short-term rentals in Ross Township, she said. She is working with two owners to convert them into bed-and-breakfasts, which have their own ordinance and are legal within the zoning areas. She has begun research on another one.
Two have complaints filed against the properties. One is on Stacia Way and the other is the High Point property. This second one is causing the most problems.
When Dawn Galler, spokeswoman of the group, stood to address the supervisors during the public comment portion, Drake said residents could address the supervisors for two minutes.
This was an attempt to keep the meeting moving forward, Drake said.
Though Drake set a timer on her phone, Galler went over the time allotted. Other residents rescinded their time so she could continue speaking.
Galler immediately began listing her ongoing frustrations with Minnick.
“Why is she not here tonight, again? Let me read from her job description I printed out,” Galler said Monday. “Again, if you don’t do your job, you should not have one.”
At the August and September township meetings, Galler and her neighbors insisted that Minnick attend a meeting in person, and they have claimed she is not doing her job.
Galler told supervisors that she had called Minnick several times and got no response. She had also emailed her multiple times and only got one reply with little information.
Minnick had planned to attend Monday evening, but emailed the supervisors late afternoon that she felt ill.
“It’s either allergies or the onset of a seasonal cold,” Minnick said Tuesday morning.
Minnick also said she had been advised by her supervisor and legal counsel to not attend in-person meetings where “I might be used as a punching bag.”
Galler and others have called her screaming their complaints and insulting her. She immediately notified her supervisor.
“This is unacceptable behavior,” Minnick said.
She says she has been talking to the property owner, working through the bureaucratic process and trying to “put out the fire” with the residents.
“Short-term rentals are a Catch-22 - you either love them or hate them. We are a vacation area. Some people come here to vacation, like it so much and decide to buy a foreclosure for a vacation home,” she said.
She could not go into details where she is in the process with the 257 High Point Drive property because it might end up in court. However, the supervisors are informed.
“They know I’m working on it, along with other short-term rentals in the area,” she said.
Supervisor James Zahoroiko met with Minnick for more than two hours in September.
Residents are not alone in their frustration. Drake called for an executive session on Oct. 19.
“The supervisors, Bureau Veritas and township solicitor Tim McManus will meet to discuss personnel matters,” Drake said.
The executive session is not open to the public or the press.
Since August, Vice Chairman David Shay has been asking for reports from Minnick. He had to issue multiple Right-to-Know requests to Danielle Romano, who is the township secretary and Right-to-Know officer.
Minnick said Tuesday that the reports take her two or three hours to write. She promised they are forthcoming. She feels she has a good rapport with the supervisors and the Ross staff.
“This is unacceptable to say the least. Residents deserve better. Other township employees are using their valuable time to deal with these zoning issues,” Shay read from his prepared statement.
For instance, the township has paid McManus about $3,900 more to date than in previous years due to the extra hours he is putting in, Shay said.
In September, he made a motion to find a new zoning officer. It was not seconded.
Shay made the motion again Monday, and it failed.