Chester board hones STR regulations, focusing on unhosted rental limits and raising annual fee

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2024 Telegraph Publishing LLC

After several months of discussions, the Chester Select Board, on Wednesday, Jan. 17, closed in on several additions that would tighten the town’s short term rental ordinance, especially with regard to unhosted rentals.

Back in early September of last year, after many months of discussions of additional regulati0n of short term rentals, the board imposed a six-month moratorium beginning Oct. 1, 2023 on all such unhosted rentals. At that time, board member Arianna Knapp said the board would need to work on next steps at every meeting because six months would go by quickly.

The March 31, 2024 moratorium deadline is still more than two months away, but after a long discussion that included members, staff and the public, the board asked Town Manager Julie Hance and Zoning Administrator Preston Bristow to add four measures to the current ordinance and send it to the town attorney for review. Those measures are:

  • A waiting period of one year before a property could become an unhosted rental.
  • A cap on the number of unhosted short-term rentals. That raised the question of what that number should be and Bristow said he would come back with how many of the currently registered 55 rentals are unhosted so the board could determine how much that might grow. There would be no cap on hosted rentals.
  • Limiting the number of unhosted STRs to two per owner.
  • Limiting corporate ownership of rentals to companies that benefit a “natural person.” That would include a holding company, investment vehicle or trust operated for the benefit of a “natural person.” It would also preclude corporations buying up houses as short-term rentals. Black’s Law Dictionary defines a natural person as “A human being, naturally born, versus a legally generated juridical person” such as a corporation.

The board also asked for more research into how other municipalities have regulated the density of rentals allowed within a geographic area.

Finally, the board also agreed that raising the annual fee for an unhosted rental from $300 to $600 is reasonable based on average rental rates in Chester. The $600 fee would represent approximately two nights of rental.

Finishing the Town Meeting Warning

Chester’s in-person town meeting will take place at 6 p.m. on Monday March 4 at Town Hall, 556 Elm Street. But the first four articles will be decided by Australian Ballot on the following day at Town Hall from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Those articles include the election of town officials and three bond issues. At last Wednesday’s meeting, the board looked at the draft Town Meeting Warning.

Hance told the board that the first bond is a match for a large state grant which will complete a culvert on Green Mountain Turnpike and pave the Andover Road. The second grant will purchase a dump truck for the highway department as well as a chipper. Hance said both of these pieces of equipment are at the end of their useful lives and need to be replaced.

And finally, there is a $350,000 bond for the purchase of an ambulance to replace the current one which is at the end of its useful life. Hance noted that bonding is the way to go for their purchases because the interest rate is quite low.

The board also talked about using non-tax sources of money that could offset a few of this year’s expenses to lower the amount that will be raised by taxes. Those sources include ARPA and the cemetery funds administered by the Trustees of Public Funds.  After some discussion, the board set the municipal taxes to be collected at $3,975,784 which will be voted from the floor on March 4 along with thirteen articles requesting funds for charitable and social service organizations.


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