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Short-term rental ordinance forwarded to Planning Board for review

After spending over two hours discussing the details of the Zoning Ordinance's Short Term Rental Amendments during a July 20, 2020 workshop, the Town Council voted 5-2 in favor of forwarding the ordinance to the Planning Board for their review. Final approval of the ordinance will be subject to the Town Council's approval at a future date.

Among the points discussed at length were the number of days per year that an owner of a property may rent, providing that a Short Term Rental Permit has first been granted by the Code Enforcement Officer.  As proposed in the Short Term Rental Amendments, if a rental is the primary residence of the owner and the owner is on the property (a "hosted" rental) during the length of the short term rental contract, the rental is not subject to a limit in the number of days allowed to rent.   In the case where the owner is not on the property during the short term rental contract period ("unhosted" rental), the Town Council revised the number of days in which the property may be rented to no more than 42 days per calendar year.

The amendment also stipulates that the property owner may have no more than one short term rental contract within a seven-day period.  Town Planner Maureen O'Meara stated, "On day seven you can rent again. The proposed ordinance rewrites the same requirement, but makes it stronger.  They don't have to be consecutive weeks, but there do have to be more than seven days between bookings."

Properties with seven or more acres may operate short term rentals whether the property owner is in residence or not during the length of the short term rental contract.  The property may be used as a short term rental for no more than 182 days per calendar year.  Short term rentals of a property that is adjacent to the owner's primary residence may be rented for no more than 105 days – providing that the owner is in residence at the adjacent primary residence throughout the period of the short term rental contract.

The challenge, as noted by several councilors, is finding a balance between a home owner's ability have a short term rental as a means to help pay their property taxes while not diminishing the peaceful and quiet environment of surrounding residents.  Councilor Valerie Deveraux stated that given the current COVID-19 pandemic, "more people might need to rent their homes for reasons other than paying their taxes."

Another point of discussion surrounded the question of whether days when friends or family of the owner of a short term rental use the property while the owner is not in residence would apply toward the maximum number of days the owner is allowed to rent. After much discussion, the conclusion was the time limits would apply.  However, the ordinance would not apply if the owner is in residence at the same time as friends and family are present.  This change stems from abuses of the friends and family excuse as a means to evade ordinance requirements in previous years.  Councilor Penny Jordan said that "if someone wants to do a short term rental, they are deciding to enter into a business and must be willing to abide by the stipulations of running such a business." 

Town Planner Maureen O'Meara shared, "If you have a short term rental permit, any time someone is using your property it counts towards your limited number of days. For people living next to a short term rental, it doesn't matter to that neighbor if they are related or not.  Your struggle is to balance all these competing issues. If you are not in the short term rental business, you do not need a permit if friends or family are visiting."

These and other points of discussion will be forwarded to the Planning Board for their guidance.  For a complete review of the Town Council Workshop discussion, please view the following CETV link: Town Council Workshop July 20, 2020.