Land-use webinar to focus on regulating short-term rentals

July 03, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Concerns about community tensions caused by the onset of short-term rental services will be the topic of a web-based seminar presented by Penn State Extension at noon on July 18.

The short-term rental market for using services such as Airbnb and VRBO — Vacation Rentals by Owner — has grown significantly in recent years. These services allow property owners to realize the economic benefit of renting out all or parts of their properties. However, municipalities are hearing concerns raised by neighboring property owners who feel short-term rentals could result in the loss of a sense of community.

Presenting the 75-minute webinar will be Shawn McGlynn, zoning officer with Middle Smithfield Township and principal with SFM Consulting LLC, which provides zoning services in Pike and Monroe counties in Pennsylvania; and Claudia Shank, an attorney with McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC.  

"Regulating Short-term Rentals" is the first webinar in Penn State Extension's Summer/Fall Land-Use Webinar Series that runs from July 18 to Nov. 14. The series informs municipal elected and appointed officials, planners, landowners, farmers and community organizations about land-use issues and decisions in their communities. 

With 4 million Airbnb listings worldwide, this rapidly growing short-term rental website and others like it have property owners, neighborhood groups, local government, and the real estate industry focused on short-term rentals. In most cases, municipal regulation of short-term rentals is nonexistent or not thoroughly thought out.  

"Recent Commonwealth Court cases highlight the difficulty that municipalities have in attempting to regulate short-term rentals under zoning ordinances that do not specifically address the use," said Shank. 

Shank's portion of the webinar presentation will focus on how courts have grappled with these issues and what the courts' recent decisions mean for landowners and municipalities. 

Middle Smithfield Township, located in Monroe County, adopted its short-term rental ordinance in September 2017. McGlynn will address what happened in Middle Smithfield Township prior to the adoption of the ordinance and what has transpired since — with a focus on how the township is regulating, rather than restricting, this new use.

The webinar will provide insight on how Pennsylvania courts have interpreted short-term rental zoning regulations and will offer guidance on how to draft regulations for short-term rentals for the benefit of a municipality and its residents.

Other topics and dates in the webinar series include the following:

— Aug. 15: "The Changing Stormwater Landscape … Are We Creating Actual Solutions or Expensive Dreams?"

— Sept. 19: "Addressing Noise in Pennsylvania's Communities and Neighborhoods"

— Oct. 17: "Economic Profiles and Assessments: What You'll Learn About Your Community and What Others May Learn About You"

— Nov. 14: "Property Law Issues Involving Public Rights, Open Space, and Access to Private Lands"

All of these programs will be recorded and available for later viewing.

The cost of the webinar series is $50 for all five sessions, or $95 for all five sessions for those who want to receive AICP certification-maintenance credits from the American Planning Association. The cost also is $95 for all five sessions for professional engineers needing PDH credits.

In addition, registered landscape architects can receive continuing-education credits for a fee of $65.

For more information, contact Peter Wulfhorst at 570-296-3400 or by email at To register for the webinars online, visit

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated July 03, 2018