Planning Commission Assesses Regulating Airbnb and Short-term Rentals

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Thursday May 03, 2018

In the digital age, finding a place for a short-term stay through sites like Airbnb and VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) is as simple as hopping on the computer or an app, filtering your needs, and booking with a few clicks. However, regulating the short-term rental of such properties on the state and local level has not been as simple.

The planning commission received a public comment from James and Wendy Valastro of Laurel Hill Drive on March 27 regarding this subject and decided to add it as a formal agenda item at its April 24 meeting. The Valastros live across from Anne Olicky, who, with her husband, has been renting out her basement as an accessory apartment for a year and a half, and is interested in purchasing a home next to the Valastros for Airbnb use.

“I think it’s actually more prevalent than you may think,” Olicky said to commissioners on April 24. “When I look, without dates, I can count at least 60 [South Burlington locations] in Airbnb. There’s six in my Orchard neighborhood.”

Since Airbnb’s inception in 2008, the site and others like it have provided travelers with a means of renting a homey and less expensive space for short periods of time. For neighbors like the Valastros, who have witnessed new faces come and go, questions of safety and sense of community have arisen.

How is a short-term rental defined?

Under State Statutes 24 VSA §4301, short-term rental is defined as “a furnished home, condominium, or other dwelling rented to the transient, traveling, or vacationing public for a period of fewer than 30 consecutive days and for more than 14 days per calendar year.”

Sites collect the state rooms and meals tax for Vermont lodging, and South Burlington is verifying with the state that it receives a portion of this tax, said Paul Conner, the city’s director of planning and zoning.

Bill S.204, being considered by the Vermont Legislature, would modify requirements related to short-term rentals. The bill would require all short-term rentals be registered with the state and require that the registration number be posted on all online booking ads. Minimum safety standards would also be required, Conner said.

The bill passed the senate on April 18 and has gone before the Committee on General Housing and Military Affairs.

Currently, South Burlington does not have a strict definition in the regulations for “short-term rental,” but there are definitions and uses that are related, such as bed and breakfast, dwelling unit, hotel, and hotel-extended stay, Conner said.

When Olicky approached the city’s administrative officer, Ray Belair, about two years ago, she said she was told that short-term rentals were not regulated any differently than long-term rentals. In the end, the result was an accessory apartment in her home with $30,000 worth of investments. She also had the fire marshal review it, even though it was not required. The ambiguity of the regulation conversation has since left her feeling uneasy and encouraged the planning commission that this be addressed.

“It offers a ton of benefits to the community and it offers challenges to the community. Careful regulation could address both of those things,” she said.

Some of the benefits she cited included the room and meals tax to the state, profit for local tradespeople, increasing the value of their home, providing extra space for visiting family members and friends of those in the neighborhood, and income.

It’s here. It’s coming. At some point it will need to be addressed.” She said. “I hope it’s addressed in a way that looks at research, looks at the values of the community, looks at the benefits, and looks at the challenges.”

The planning commission will be reviewing its annual work plan at the next meeting and into May where the topic may be assessed.


SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent