Manchester Planning Commission considering study into short-term rentals and registration | Local News

MANCHESTER — A register of short-term rentals and a study of their effect on the local economy won backing from the Planning Commission on Monday.

Planning and zoning director Janet Hurley said she contacted Doug Kennedy, the consultant who conducted a downtown mixed-use market feasibility study for the city, to assess the effect of short-term rentals on the housing market and their economic impact.

This seemed to address the concerns of commission member Phil Peterson that much of the data the panel has seen and discussed so far has been anecdotal.

“I think what we want to make sure is that we represent the residents of the city by not taking actions that will end up costing more than the benefits that we will end up enjoying,” Peterson said.

Commission Chairman Greg Boshart said he would support a registration system that allows the city to determine the impact of short-term rentals on the local economy – and the use of taxes and fees. resulting to help solve the housing crisis in Manchester.

“Generally, I don’t necessarily want to dictate in extreme ways what someone can or can’t do on their property,” Boshart said. “My personal hope is not to prevent someone from doing a short term rental. It’s to monitor them and make sure they follow certain guidelines and requirements and not to make it so difficult that they do not exist.

Short-term rentals – often referred to by the brand names of online booking platforms such as Airbnb or Vrbo – allow owners to earn income on their property and allow travelers to stay in a home rather than a hotel or an inn. They have also been criticized for circumventing the rules and regulations that apply to traditional accommodation businesses and for taking property off the property market at a time when accommodation is scarce.

But short-term rentals predate the online business model in Manchester, notably for the annual show jumping show in East Dorset. And there are fears that their limitation could affect potential visitors who cannot find or afford rooms in the area’s established inns and motels, especially when tourism is busiest here.

Boshart said he was “100% on board” to ensure short-term rentals are safe for people staying there, to the same health and safety standards as long-term rentals.

“I think on some level they are having a negative impact on the housing crisis. And hopefully we can find a way to make that maybe contribute to new rental properties,” he said. “Is there a way to tax them so that they can contribute to the city’s purchase of a property that the developer can enter and develop residential units that will be strictly for long-term rental? “

The decision whether or not to proceed with a study will rest with City Manager John O’Keefe and the board, as funding would likely come from taxpayer dollars, Hurley said.

“We would prefer not to use a municipal planning grant for this because we will likely apply for a municipal planning grant to help us in our efforts towards a new town plan this year,” Hurley said Tuesday. Moreover, such a grant would not be available until December.

The commission, local business owner Bill Drunsic and members of the public on Zoom spent 90 minutes discussing the issues and the city’s role — if any — in regulating short-term rentals.

Drunsic, who said he owns a bed and breakfast, said action was needed to help the city’s housing market, given its lack of inventory and prices out of reach for renters and tenants. low and middle income buyers. He also said the city should consider defining “residential” in its zoning bylaw as a way to determine what business activity should be allowed in residential areas.

Drunsic also produced a list of 109 properties currently listed on the Airbnb platform, noting that some of them have year-round listings. “That tells me no one lives there,” he said, wondering if these properties should legally be considered inns or bed and breakfasts.

“All of these places are flying by the rules,” Drunsic said.

Boshart reviewed the listings provided by Drunsic and noted that one listing indicated it could sleep up to 13 people with four bedrooms, 10 beds and three bathrooms. “It doesn’t appear to be in compliance” with state regulations, he said.

Commission member Leon Ward, who brought the issue to the commission’s attention last year, said he saw it more as a housing issue. Homes purchased by out-of-town investors as business opportunities are homes that cannot be purchased or rented by local workers, Ward said.

But Peterson stressed that even if those homes were on the market, current market conditions would put them out of reach for low-to-middle income buyers.

Ward discussed possibilities including limiting short-term rentals to certain neighborhoods or limiting the number of days a year a property can be rented out.

When asked if these restrictions were what he had in mind, Drunsic said he was looking for fairness above all else.

“If I’m buying a property and want to treat it like a rental property, and I’m commercial, I have to follow the regulations of, I would say, a hostel,” he offered as a hypothesis. It’s not the same as buying a house and deciding to rent it out for the summer on your vacation, he added.

But Boshart noted that his in-laws rent their home on Cape Cod, so they can pay their taxes.

“They had this house for 50 to 60 years in the family. Taxes are $20,000 per year. There’s no way they can afford it unless they rent it out,” he explained. “It’s the only way some people can afford to have their homes here.”

During the meeting, the committee discussed short-term rental policies in Stowe and Killington – like Manchester, ski resorts – to get an idea of ​​how other cities in the state are handling the growth of the industry.

Killington has adopted a registration requirement for short-term rentals. The policy states that these units are rented for more than 14 days in a calendar year and less than 30 consecutive days. It sets a limit of two occupants per approved bedroom plus additional occupants – for example, a three-bedroom house could be rented to a group of eight people. And it ties approved rooms to water and sewer capacity, or the conditions of a Law 250 permit.

It requires landlords to be available by phone 24 hours a day when their property is in use, provide proof of insurance for short-term rentals and prohibit on-street parking.

Stowe does not regulate short term rentals. But his policy reminds landlords that they must post fire and safety contact information in every room, that they must collect taxes — 9% state and 1% local option tax — and that s If they have three or more units, they will need a restaurant and lodging license from the city.

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