Andover Select Board replaces another member, talks short-term rentals again

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2022 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The Andover Select Board with new member Susan Leader, center. Images courtesy of Okemo Valley TV

Just as things seemed about to settle down on the Andover Select Board, on Monday night another resignation put a fourth new member on the panel, leaving chairman Chris Plumb as the only one with substantial experience in town government.

As the meeting got under way at Town Hall, it was noted that long-time member Maddy Bodin had resigned and the board needed to appoint a replacement. Board member Melissa Gates pointed to the early March four-way race for the two one-year seats in which Susan Leader had come in third with 95 votes and suggested that it might be “fair” for the board to appoint her for the coming year.

“She’s kind of next in line, votewise,” said Gates.

Plumb said that Scott Kendall — who had been on the board but announced he would not run — was interested and Kendall, sitting in the audience as was Leader, acknowledged that he would like to come back on the board. But board member Robin Trask pointed to the fact that Leader had actually run for the office.

In the end, Gates nominated Leader and the appointment passed unanimously. Leader then signed the oath of office and sat down with the other board members.

According to Town Clerk Jeanette Haight, Bodin sent the town a letter a day or two after the March 14 meeting citing “burnout” as a factor in her deciding to resign. Especially in the last few months she and several other former board members had butted heads over a variety of issues.

Short-term rental issues unresolved

While the board continued to look at model rules of procedure for running its meetings and a conflict of interest policy, the lion’s share of its time was given to a discussion of how to handle short-term vacation rentals, much of which has been discussed by the previous board.

ZBA member Gary Lundberg fills the board in on his research into short-term rentals

Zoning board member Gary Lundberg said that they had been talking about this for some time in response to complaints by a number of residents about neighboring properties that had become short-term rentals. There have also been complaints over  noise problems and too many visitors in homes for their septic systems. Lundberg then outlined the steps taken so far, including consulting an  attorney, researching how other towns (including Killington, Woodstock, Plymouth and Ludlow) have handled the issue with regulation and discussions about how Andover could approach the situation.

Lundberg said the Zoning Board of Adjustment looked at its regulations to see if they had anything to address the issue and found Killington’s  ordinance “one that would fit our need.” In 2020, Killington established a system that defined”short-term rental,”  set up a registration process with a $250 fee and checked compliance with a fire and safety inspection.

“If we want to put some sort of enforcement vehicle in place, we have to come up with a definition of what short-term rental is,” said Lundberg noting that surrounding towns have performance standards in their zoning regulations that address issues like noise. Lundberg said the first thing to do though was to come up with that definition.

Lundberg said that Killington is using a company to handle the registration process at a cost of $30,000 per year and that the same company would charge Andover $11,500 for the 20 or so rental properties currently in Andover.

He said that with the listers and Assistant Town Clerk Jonathan Stevens have put together a database of rentals, which includes information on the number of bedrooms and what number of guests the size of the septic system would permit. For example, Lundberg said that if a property had three bedrooms, Killington would allow two guests per bedroom plus two for a maximum of eight.

The discussion then turned to what authority the town has to enforce based on septic systems – the construction of which are regulated by the state and not the local town as in the past.

Trask said she was concerned that regulations would affect a broad spectrum of people in the town but that there are only a handful of actual short-term rentals and questioned whether that would be fair to everyone else.

“We’re not Killington and we’re not Plymouth,” said Trask. “And we’re not even Chester. We don’t have businesses, we don’t have houses right next to one another the way Chester does.”

Lundberg said that Ludlow’s main point in regulating short-term rentals was safety and that the rentals are in fact businesses.

Leader asked if it was the case that if you have local regulations that enforcement is local while if you go by state regulations the state will enforce them.

Lundberg also noted that this is a housing issue in which anytime a house comes up for sale it is snapped up for the short-term rental business.

“My goal is to make people aware of what the options are out there,” said Lundberg.

Kendall pointed to Rowell’s Inn at Route 11 and Esmerelda on Stigers Road that have had to comply with state regulations on hotels, while others can simply rent a house through AirBnB without complying with state regulations.

“Bad actors need to be dealt with,” said Trask, “but it has to be so carefully crafted.” She also said she was concerned that regulations might make someone like “grandma” into a commercial concern and she questioned what that would do to their homestead exemption.

A lot of questions that were raised had no answers and led to more questions including, who will enforce any regulations the town enacts and at what cost. In the end, the board decided to ask the Zoning Board to work on a definition.

In other business

The board discussed a program that would supply dry hydrants to residents who have ponds that could be used for fire fighting. The owner would have to pay for installing the pipes and coordinate with the Chester Fire Department.

In the last of its annual reorganization work, the board added The Chester Telegraph to The Vermont Journal as its paper of record.

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  1. Raymond Makul says:

    There is a vast difference between an out of state resident investor owner, who may own several properties for short term rental, compared to “grandma”, a local who lives full time at her property and is a local voter. Doing nothing because you can’t tell the difference creates a loophole big enough for a 50 guest short term rental. Andover has no police, no local ambulance, and no fire department. We are not equipped for emergencies these rentals invite.

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