LACONIA — The planning board voted unanimously on Tuesday to forward a proposed ordinance regulating short-term rentals to the city council for adoption.
The suggested addition to the zoning ordinance will set new rules for people who rent out space in their homes through Airbnb or similar on-line home-sharing sites.
The regulations were drafted in response to complaints by neighbors who live on Old North Main Street demanding better oversight of Airbnb-type rentals after a summer of problems with a “party house” on the normally sedate street.
Dorothy Duffy of 47 Whipple Ave., told the board she opposes what she termed transient housing for compensation in a single-family zone.
“I’m insulted when a second homeowner in a gated community is a hardship and absentee landlords don’t give a hoot about our local schools or community,” she said.
She argued that short-term rentals are depleting the stock of long-term rental housing creating a financial hardship for those without the financial resources to buy a home.
Tom Seigle of 44 Village Court voiced his concern that allowing short-term rentals in residential areas would change the character of tight-knit neighborhoods. He also expressed fear that because of the city’s many recreational opportunities it could attract land speculators who would build homes specifically for the short-term rental market.
“It’s in the best interest of the city not to allow it in residential neighborhoods,” he said.
David Bownes the city’s council’s representative to the board said the intent of the short-term rental regulations is to preclude outside investors for coming into the city and buying up homes specifically to engage in quick turnover rentals.
Paula Hiuser of 29 Gale Ave., recounted that in 2006 she went through a divorce, had two dogs and could not find a place to rent. She bought a home at the top of the market, shortly thereafter lost her job and braced for foreclosure.
At the suggestion of her neighbor, she decided to rent her house through Airbnb. Since hosting her first family from Holland, Hiuser said, she has had 344 reservations, 800 guests and has become an Airbnb “Super Host.”
“People are afraid of what they are not used to. Airbnb gave me the opportunity to save my home and launch a company,” she said.
Anne Jacobsen of 39 Gale Ave. said because of her age and health-related issues she is unemployable. Over the past five years she has rented the second and third floors of her home through Airbnb some 600 times.
“This allows me to stay in my house. It has been a very positive experience, enriching my life,” she said.
On a motion by Dave Broughton, seconded by Charlie St. Clair, the board voted to remove language in the draft proposal that limited approved short-term rental units to be rented for a maximum of 18 separate rentals or a maximum of 184 nights, whichever occurs first.
If the ordinance is adopted, those wishing to use their homes for short-term rental must get a permit from the city that will need to be renewed annually. As part of the process, abutters will be notified and receive a letter detailing instructions on how to handle complaints and outlining the grievance process.
City Planner Dean Trefethen said Wednesday, that neighbors who have complaints about noise, trash, parking or other issues at properties being used for short-term rentals need to report their concerns promptly so that they can be addressed.
Complaints concerning several short-term rental properties that the city is now dealing with, Trefethen said, were not reported until months after the alleged issues had already occurred, making it difficult to investigate.
The planning department will develop a spreadsheet of approved short-term rental properties allowing complaints made to police regarding noise or parking issues to be tracked.