Andover board gets legal advice on short-term rentals

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2021 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Two weeks after hearing residents speak of a short-term rental “tsunami,” the Andover Select Board received advice from attorney Jim Carroll on how they should and should not regulate that business.

Via Zoom, Carroll told the board that there are a number of municipalities that either have made changes or are considering making changes to their zoning in response to the growing number of short-term rentals. He mentioned Killington, Woodstock, Stowe, Burlington and South Burlington.

Attorney Jim Carroll explains the legal landscape around short-term rentals

Carroll said that regulating short-term rentals is a legal and political decision and that litigation has already outlined some of the steps the town should consider. He noted that in a suit in 2012, the Vermont Supreme Court reversed an Environmental Court decision in favor of Grand Isle, which had issued a notice of violation of its zoning law. The high court said that the fact that because there was no short-term rental use written into the zoning regulations there was not sufficient notice to the owners of a vacation home that they could not rent it when they were not using it.

Carroll said the town’s action was too broad in denying the use of the owner’s property but it also outlined that there is “enabling authority” in state law for a town to regulate short-term rentals.

He also noted that the legislature recently passed a bill that defined short-term rentals. Act 179 gives towns the power: To regulate by means of an ordinance or bylaw the operation of short-term rentals within the municipality, provided that the ordinance or bylaw does not adversely impact the availability of long-term rental housing. As used in this subdivision, “short-term rental” means a furnished house, condominium, or other dwelling room or self-contained dwelling unit 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.

Carroll also said that the state already regulates short-term rentals through taxation (rooms and meals), fire safety and health.  “I don’t know how many people are starting to catch on to the fact that if they are doing short-term rentals they have a public building and need to comply with some regulations from the state,” said Carroll.

Andover resident Lauren Krieger explains how she and her husband manage short-term rentals

Board member Jed LaPrise asked if Carroll was familiar with organizations that are lobbying and advocating for short-term rentals. Carroll said that he was and such organizations were probably looking for test cases to take to court. He said that an outright ban on such rentals would be more likely to draw their fire than reasonable regulation.

After Carroll left the meeting the board heard from Andover resident Lauren Krieger, who said she and her husband manage a number of properties for short-term rental. She said that those are generally small and unique properties for just a few guests. Krieger explained how the industry works and said she thought regulating rentals was a good idea and offered to help the board in working on its ordinance.

The board also spoke with Capt. Claude Weyant of the Windsor County Sheriff’s Department. Asked if deputies could enforce zoning regulations Weyant said, “No police department in Vermont enforces zoning.” He suggested that the town’s zoning administrator or a town constable handle zoning, but added that the sheriff could take care of related violations such as cars being parked on the road or noise complaints.

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  1. Robert Sartini says:

    Regardless of what people say short term rentals take property off the market for buyers or long term rentals. That’s the impact. Owners who rent have a right but they should be regulated the same as Inns and B&Bs in taxing, inspections, fire safety. Etc.

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