Derry board considers stricter short-term rental ordinance

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2023 Telegraph Publishing LLC

At its Monday Jan. 23 meeting, the  Londonderry Select Board took up a draft ordinance to regulate short-term rentals. The draft that was posted on the town’s website as part of the board packet was basically the ordinance adopted by the Chester Select Board back in December.  But a few hours before the Londonderry meeting, Town Administrator Shane O’Keefe received a new draft of the ordinance from the town’s attorney, which took the original document in a stricter – and somewhat less clear – direction.

Based on her experience living near an STR, Eyrn Ryan tells the board she wants more restrictive rules. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

That Chester ordinance set up a mandatory registry of short-term rentals with limits on the number of guests and fees that would support the use of a “host compliance” company to monitor online listings to ensure that rental offerings do not exceed that capacity. The ordinance also sets up rules and requirements backed up by the authority to issue municipal tickets for violations. These tickets could be written by a “short-term rental administrator” and as well as the town manager and Chester Police, and are adjudicated in the same way as speeding tickets

The edited ordinance from Londonderry’s attorney has a much longer purpose clause that calls out negative effects of short-term rentals and the need to protect against them. It also limits the use as a short-term rental to 150 days per year and requires an “accounting/printout” of the total number of days the property was rented in the previous year before the registration can be renewed.  It also requires a short-term rental to be available for inspection by the town’s STR administrator with one week’s notice.

Board chair Tom Cavanagh saying that the proposed ordinance requires a state fire inspection for all STRs

And where the requirements of the Chester ordinance differentiate between rentals accommodating up to eight people and those with more than eight, the draft by Londonderry’s attorney seems to require an annual inspection by the state’s Division of Fire Safety for all STRs and at the same time allowing self-certification of compliance for the lower number of guests and a single state inspection for the higher number.

Asked about this, board chair Tom Cavanagh said, “Ours says period, you need” a state inspection.

Board member Melissa Brown characterized the draft as having ‘a lot of teeth’ but that it’s not all there yet

Londonderry residents Eryn Ryan and Lisa Ward reiterated their desire to have more stringent regulation of short-term rentals based on their experience with STRs near their homes. At the Jan. 9 meeting, Ryan played a recording she made of  machine gun fire coming from an STR on New Year’s Eve. She also said that in one instance there were so many cars parked in a shared driveway that an ambulance could not get near the home that it was called to.

Referring to the draft ordinance, board member Melissa Brown said there’s “a lot of teeth in it” but that it’s not all there yet. She also noted that some of the things that Ryan and Ward wanted, the town may not be able to do legally.

Cavanagh said the board would keep working on it.

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