Andover confronts short-term rental ‘tsunami’

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2021 Telegraph Publishing LLC

With a growing number of dwellings in Andover becoming short-term and vacation rentals, the Andover Select Board on Monday, Aug. 9 took public comment as well as advice from the town’s Zoning Board of Adjustment/Planning Commission on what steps can be taken to get a handle on the situation.

Those attending the meeting described adverse consequences ranging from loss of town character to lack of available housing for locals to the disruption of large parties and traffic on back roads.

ZBA/Planning chair Joe Fromberger explains the town’s options in regulating the rentals through zoning. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

ZBA/Planning Commission chair Joe Fromberger told the board that he saw two paths. The first would be to develop specific zoning language to regulate short-term rentals and submit that to the town’s voters as a change to the zoning regulations. The second would be for the Select Board to craft an ordinance – once again with very specific language – to regulate them.

That kicked off a wide-ranging discussion of the problems with short-term rentals and what kind of regulation was needed. Residents told stories of weekend rentals in which large numbers of guests converge on a home with some of them driving too fast along the dirt roads. The anecdotal quality of the discussion and the lack of a specific number of properties that are being rented by the day led some to ask for data. Most agreed that the problem would be enforcing any restrictions that the Select Board enacts.

Resident Ray Makul saying that the problem is not the local renting out a room to pay the taxes, but short-term rentals through third parties with absent landlords

Select Board member Madeline Bodin asked if the list of uses in the zoning regulations (which does not include short-term or any other kind of rentals) could be used and member Jed LaPrise wondered if a conditional use permit for vacation rentals could be renewable so abuses could result in its revocation.

Resident Ray Makul said the problem is short term rentals through a third party agent where there is an absentee owner, not the local owner who is renting out a portion of a house to help pay the property taxes.

“A tsunami is coming,” said Jean Peters, a former Select Board member, pointing to large commercial entities like Marriott entering the short-term rental business.

“A tsunami coming,” said former select board member Jean Peters, right

Just before publication of this report, The Telegraph received a press release from the Vermont Short-Term Rental Alliance which is announcing it’s opening to memberships. The Alliance says it “was established earlier this year when the state legislature introduced bills that would have dramatically impacted owners of vacation homes and short-term rentals without having received adequate input from the stakeholders.”

The VTSTRA press release sent by the organization’s founder and director Julie Marks, the “membership launch comes at a time when an increasing number of Vermont towns are taking up the issue of regulating short-term rentals and the future of state-level regulations is unknown.”

According to the Vermont Secretary of State’s database, VTSTRA was incorporated on Feb. 26, 2021 and has hired the lobbying firm of MMR, LLC which represents dozens of large corporations in a variety of business sectors.

Enforcement and septic rules

Board member Jed LaPrise saying that the Sheriff’s Department doesn’t want to deal with enforcement in these matters

Resident Hank Mauti questioned whether Andover could even enforce such regulation and pointed to the inability of the town to get some property owners to clean up their yards. LaPrise said the sheriff’s department doesn’t want to conduct enforcement while others suggested using a constable or hiring a police officer which others noted involves considerable expense.

One avenue many agreed should be pursued was regulations according to the number of people allowed by a home’s septic permit. One attendee told of a property that advertises itself as sleeping 16 people but the residence only has a three-bedroom permit, which would allow just six people.

Board member Maddy Bodin suggests speaking with the Sheriff’s Department to see where they stand on enforcement

Bodin suggested talking with the Sheriff’s Department and asked Fromberger if the ZBA/Planning Commission would work with the Select Board on an ordinance. He agreed that they would.

Makul said that companies buy up housing for rentals go “where they can get away with things,” calling it the path of least resistance. While many of those present wanted to see more regulation and more enforcement, they also were concerned that could result in litigation.

Town hires lawyer to advise on short-term rentals

On Thursday, Aug. 12, the Select Board held a special meeting to discuss hiring an attorney to advise them on handling the question of short-term rentals. According to Town Clerk Jeanette Haight, the board decided to hire municipal attorney Jim Carroll of Middlebury. Carroll serves as the town attorney for Chester.


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  1. bob sartini says:

    At least the owners using Airbnb type rentals must pay taxes as Inns & BNB’s must.

    Non-resident rentals are restricting the availability of homes to buy as well as rent.

  2. Arlene Mutschler says:

    I dont live IN Andover, but close enough and I understand the need for control and to feel the effects of the situation as they go through my town to get to Andover. My first thought was septic. When one builds a house, the restraints on the size of a septic system is the deciding factor of the size and occupancy limits of the house, is it not? Don’t you need a rental permit to rent out? Are there no oversights as to safety of fire codes and water usage? There are many ways to get a handle on this. And I know, Vermonters don’t like anyone telling them what to do. But don’t “the needs of the many” come into this? As well the potential over use of the land etc? Good luck