To the editor: Chester Select Board overstepped authority on STR moratorium

Response to the Select Board meeting on 9/06/23/concerning the 6-month moratorium on new unhosted short-term rentals on any existing or a new property purchase not-registered before Oct. 1, 2023.

This is an overstep of power and a threat to our personal property rights. Instead of waiting for necessary facts needed to make a decision, they decided moratorium first and facts second. Cart before the horse.

Select Board members Arianna Knapp repeatedly used the word “Pause” instead of moratorium as if we were all 5th graders.

Chair Arne Jonynas commented that if people buying houses don’t want to buy because they don’t know what the rental rules will be, then maybe they are not the kind of citizens we “he” wants in Chester. Is he defining what a good citizen is?

Audience comments were a short waiting period to ensure that the short-term rental is compliant.
Concern this would affect the ability for someone to sell their property. A buyer could buy and still not
know what the board would impose at the end of the 6 months. What if one needed the short-term
rental until they retired to Vermont, or a young person needed the short-term rental revenue to support a mortgage, or people need extra income to pay property taxes and insurance?

Long-term rentals are often destructive and intrusive to neighbors, forcing lengthy evictions. We know
from experience. Not an issue for short-term rentals.

Questions asked: How many complaints have been made on short-term rentals? How many for all
properties? Is this about low-income housing? Without viable sustainable jobs, it will never be
affordable. Economic development should be the priority if we want to keep the young people we have and attract others.

Do they help support the Chester economy and jobs? Do they help owners take better care of their
property? Guests rate the owners, and owners rate the guests. What about pets? Many allow pets
while most hotels do not.

Bottom line: The natural ebb flow of the economy will resolve this perceived problem. Expressed was that the increased number of short-term rentals, increased pricing and decreased post-Covid demand has driven occupancy down.

My husband and I live in Chester. I was born here and my wife since she was 8. We are both now 69.
We have a short-term rental on our family property properly registered. Guest taxes bypass the
owners and are sent directly to the state of Vermont.

Bob and Dawn Brown

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  1. Robert Nied says:

    Buying property and renting it out as a STR is a business decision, a form of speculative real estate investment. No one “has” to go into that business. On the other hand, everyone “has” to find a place to live. Vermont will be short 30 to 40,000 permanent housing units by 2030. We have a critical housing crisis. Responsible communities respond to that crisis by enacting regulations (and incentives) that are fair and appropriate, using their legal authority to regulate land use under 24 V.S.A. Chapter 117.

    A moratorium is a legal and defensible mechanism available to municipalities in most states, including Vermont. A temporary moratorium is not a violation of private property rights, a fact repeatedly affirmed by state and Federal courts.

    As to the rights of landlords, Vermont has no cap on the amount of rent a landlord can charge, Vermont’s average rents are the 19th highest out of the 50 states, a landlord can raise the rent any amount they want with proper notice, a landlord can refuse to renew a lease for “no cause“ and there is no legal limit on the amount a landlord can demand that a tenant must pay in security. People who invest in real estate are certainly not villains, but they are also not victims. The housing crisis is real, including here in Chester. The Select Board has acted with due diligence in enacting a six month moratorium while a comprehensive set of regulations for hosted and un-hosted STRs can be drafted, refined, and implemented. Hopefully those regulations, warranted and overdue, will prioritize the greater need of the community for available and affordable housing, over the potential profits of real estate speculation.