By Curt Peterson
KILLINGTON—Town Planner and Zoning Administrator Preston Bristow said there are approximately 931 short-term rentals in Killington—more than any other town in the state. According to the 2010 Census, Killington has only 820 full-time residents. The Killington Planning Commission is proposing a registration ordinance to deal with the growing number of short-term rentals and safety and health issues they often produce. The commission held a public hearing Wednesday, Nov. 20. About 40 attendees had some tough questions and comments for the commission.
Bristow said the commission must hold at least one public hearing and the Select Board will hold at least one as well before making a decision about approving the ordinance.
The number of short-term-rentals was estimated by Host Compliance LLC, a Seattle company that monitors internet advertising of short-term rentals with Killington locations. Asked for a legal definition of a short-term rental property, Bristow said if rent is charged, and if the property is rented for more than 14 days in a given year, that defines it as a short-term rental and triggers the requirement for registration.
Town Manager Chet Hagenbarth said temporary over-occupancy by family over holidays does not violate any rental regulations.
“This is all about health and safety,” Hagenbarth said. “The regulations are already in place at the state level or in our existing zoning ordinance—this is a registration ordinance only.”
If adopted, the ordinance will go into effect the following year, he said. Safety and/or health violations would be notified, and, after a waiting period any unremedied violation would earn a $200 fine for every day until the remedy is affected.
A “small registration fee,” to be determined by the Select Board, would be charged for a registration certificate. Hagenbarth said he calculates one part-time administrator might be required to handle the registration process during for the first year when all short-term-rentals would be registered for the first time.
Then the monitoring company would build a data base of short-term rentals for the registrations, and notify of additions or changes. Bristow said monitoring might cost $70,000 the first year. A monitoring company hasn’t been selected, he said.
Several short-term rental owners voiced objections to the proposed ordinance.
Chuck Graziano called it “over-taxing, overbearing,” and involving “too many permits and inspections.” He suggested smaller, shorter-term rentals should be exempted.
David McComb also thinks the registry will be “costly and over-burdening,” and add new requirements.
Hagenbarth said short-term rentals rented for less than 14 days per year are already exempted, and fire and safety requirements are already in effect – the registry is intended to help identify rentals to assure compliance, not to impose new requirements.
Patricia Comblo, an attorney in New York, Massachusetts and Colorado, claimed the registry ordinance is “deficient” and “not ready to be passed.”
Hagenbarth explained the proposal is only a recommendation to the Select Board, who would have to enact it, and that all the regulations registrants are required to certify are already in force.
“This proposal is about prevention,” he said. “It’s about documenting short-term rentals are in compliance regarding sewer and septic, and fire prevention. It will protect both renters and owners.”
Charles Underwood questioned the occupants per bedroom limit.
“Most of the units in our complex are designed for four people per bedroom,” he said.
The proposal sets a two-person per bedroom total “plus two.”
Hagenbarth said Act 250 certification for condo complexes states the occupancy limit already and is not affected by the proposed ordinance.
Select Board member Jim Haff said the registry would not be a problem for the majority of short-term rentals, since they are condos.
“The condominium complexes already have permits for fire and sewers with stated allowed occupancies, and the Division of Fire Safety already inspects every unit,” he said, adding that the property managers at each complex can provide the documents necessary to register.
Planning Commission member Vito Rasenas admitted he isn’t enthusiastic about the proposal, but knows something has to be done, as septic system overloads and large rowdy parties arise from over-occupancy.
“The resort started around 1956, but short-term rentals only became a thing 3-4 years ago,” he said. “They’re good for the town, bringing in outside capital, inspiring outsiders to buy and fix up residential properties. But we need to have them registered so if we need to enforce the rules already in force, the ordinance has teeth.”
The ordinance was tabled pending language suggestions from the hearing.
The next Planning Board Commission meeting is scheduled for Wednesay, Dec. 11, at 7:30 p.m. at the town hall.