Westport gets closer to regulating Air BnBs

Updated bylaw proposal sent to select board; public hearing in January

By Ted Hayes
Posted 12/1/23

Once a lengthy document that contained a dizzying array of rules, steps, fees, inspections and prohibitions, an updated version of the town’s proposed Bed and Breakfast and Short Term Rental …

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Westport gets closer to regulating Air BnBs

Updated bylaw proposal sent to select board; public hearing in January

Posted

Once a lengthy document that contained a dizzying array of rules, steps, fees, inspections and prohibitions, an updated version of the town’s proposed Bed and Breakfast and Short Term Rental (STR) bylaw pares down oversight substantially from earlier versions, providing a much clearer blueprint of how rentals like those offered by AirBnB and other outfits may legally exist in Westport.

Members of the select board are expected to review the most recent draft Monday. From there, it will go back to the planning board next month for a public hearing and possible amendments, before a likely appearance before voters at Town Meeting next Spring.

The new draft regulations came after several months of study by the town’s newly convened Short Term Rental Committee, and seek to legally codify the regulation of short term rentals, which have existed here, unregulated, for years. It also further defines the rules for bed and breakfasts, which have been an allowed use in the residential/agriculture zone for years.

According to the draft, the proposed bylaw “provides for the orderly operation (of rentals and bed and breakfasts) and prevents negative impacts on neighborhood character, housing availability and house prices.”

What are the rules?

If the bylaw makes it to Town Meeting in essentially its current form, and passes, short term rentals would be subject to the following rules, among others:

• Owners must register with the board of health and obtain a permit which would need to be renewed annually. The board will determine the number of bedrooms and the number of guests the home can lawfully accommodate.

• Residents who rent the homes, condos or apartments in which they live will not be allowed to let or sublet them for use as a short term rental. Instead, only the following may seek to obtain a permit in the residential/agriculture zone: A property owner who lives in Westport, a legal resident of Westport, an LLC in which the majority owner lives in Westport, or a trust in which the trustee lives in Westport.

• Under the rules, stays must be a minimum of two nights, a maximum of 31 nights, and only lodging will be allowed. Specifically, the bylaw forbids commercial meetings and “for profit events or venues or uses” are not permitted.

• Owners will not be allowed to put up signs advertising their property as available for short term rental, and stays must be a minimum of two nights. There must also be parking adequate for the number of guests permitted in the rental unit.

• Though short term rentals are permitted as an accessory use, the following may not be used for short term rentals: Residential properties designated as affordable or otherwise income-restricted; and dwelling subject to any local, state or federal law that prohibits the leasing or subleasing of the unit as a short term rental.

• Rental owners must provide contact information for a local person who can be called if there is a problem or emergency.

• In addition, rentals will also be subject to other applicable state and federal laws; the owner must be current on taxes.

• Other regulations apply. Click here for the full draft proposal.

Members of the planning board last week scheduled a public hearing on the draft for Tuesday, Jan. 9, and also plan to hold a “work session” at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 19, at the Town Hall annex.

 

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