Andover Board nears accepting its first million-dollar budget Discussion of regulating short-term rentals dominates, but board opts for slower deliberations

The Andover Select Board on Monday night: From left, Robin Trask, Melissa Gates-Perry, Susan Leader, Richard Griswold and Chris Plumb. Screenshot from Okemo Valley TV.

By Cynthia Prairie
©2023 Telegraph Publishing LLC

While the Andover Select Board on Monday night spent more time discussing a proposed bylaw addressing regulating the growing short-term rental industry, no action was taken on the issue — and seemingly won’t be in time for Town Meeting in March, when voters would have the earliest opportunity to vote it up or down.

In the meantime, it addressed the proposed 2023-24 town budget of $1.085 million, which is up by $106,259 over the current budget, and apparently is Andover’s first budget to ever to top $1 million.

The hike, due to rising costs of fuel, maintenance equipment, salt and gravel, would mean an increase of 7 cents — to 60 cents per $100 of assessed valuation on an Andover property. According to Town Clerk Jeanette Haight, that would amount to about a $245 property tax hike on a property valued at $350,000 — up to $2,100 per year from $1,855.

The Select Board will look over the budget one last time, at its next meeting on  Monday, Jan. 23, before passing it onto residents, who will get a chance to vote on the budget at Town Meeting in March. 

A few of items discussed that are going into the budget are:

  • $60,000 for repair and maintenance of town road equipment
  • $50,000 for fuel oil
  • $1,400 for heating the Town Office
  • $2,000 for heating Town Hall.
  • $5,000 for heating the Town Garage, up from $3,000 last year.
  • $52,000 for salt
  • $29,000 for crushed gravel

Among the charitable organizations list are:

  • Neighborhood Connections, which had asked for $1,500 for regular programming and $1,000 for transportation services.  The board cut that ask to $1,500, which is still double what it received from Andover last year.
  • Chester-Andover Family Center, $1,000.
  • The Whiting Library, which has not submitted a proposal yet, but the board, which said it hoped to hear from someone associated with the library governance, decided to keep it level with last year at $2,700.
  • Meals on Wheels, which also has yet to submit its proposal, would also receive what it did last year: $500.

Town opts for statistical appraisal of properties

And the board did approve a $45,000 contract with the New England Municipal Resource Center for a data quality study and a possible statistical reappraisal of town properties. According to the state, a data quality study determines if  “the existing property description data is complete and accurate.” The data study must be done prior to a statistical reappraisal, and that type of reappraisal must be approved by the state.

Select Board members decided to go with statistical reappraisals since they are less expensive and time consuming than traditional ones in which town listers travel to physically assess property values.

Short-term rentals: how much to regulate, how much to charge

As the board began addressing the proposed short-term rental bylaw, resident Scott Kendall asked about the proposed fees of $75 for hosted and $100 for unhosted. Board member Susan Leader replied that she believed they were too low, saying, “I anticipate unforeseen expenses,” such as for having to call law enforcement. She mentioned that Londonderry Town Clerk Kelly Pajala likes aspects of Chester’s ordinance but believes that Londonderry should charge higher annual fees than Chester, which currently stand at $150 for hosted and $300 for unhosted.

Kendall also suggested mandating that unhosted STRs have a local manager, although board member Melissa Gates-Perry said, “I don’t feel we should have to put more costs on the residents of Andover.”  She also expressed concern over getting sued, saying “If a person buys a home here, they have a right to do with it what they want.”  But Kendall pushed back saying, “Other towns require a host.”

“My concern is just more regulations,” said board member Robin Trask, although she added, “I like having a database to find out who to call.” She was referring to a database that some towns, including Chester, are building, that includes  STR owners names and contact information.

Leader said she had spent some time recently speaking with various area town officials about where they stood on regulating STRs, and indicated that while Windham was not even discussing the idea at this point, Weston and Londonderry, like Andover, were in the beginning stages.  She suggested — and other members agreed — that Andover did not need to rush into more regulations but could conduct their deliberations more slowly.

In the end, the board decided to invite Pajala, who is also a state representative who as been involved in the STR issue on the state level, to Town Meeting to speak about the issue for the benefit of the entire town.

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 40 years. Cynthia has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland, and has won numerous state awards for her reporting. As an editor, she has overseen her staffs to win many awards for indepth coverage. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. Raymond Makul says:

    Absentee property owners are not “residents”. If they are not registered to vote here, have no Vermont drivers license registered to the property they are renting out to others on a short term basis, they are property owners running a business in an area zoned residential.

    Some of the properties have never had a resident owner. They were short term rentals from day one.