CONWAY — At their most recent meeting, the town’s advisory short-term rental panel addressed noise, other people’s pets and trash removal.
The goal of the committee is to develop a set of recommendations for selectmen and the planning board on striking a balance to regulate short-term rentals.
Meeting at the Conway Village Fire Station on Sept. 2, the board voted to send with two dissenting votes to send a letter drafted by committee chair Steve Solomon to the planning board, outlining three major recommendations:
• Add the following definition to chapter 190-31 of the town codes: "Short-Term Rental: The rental of a dwelling unit for periods of less than 30 days, rented or offered for rent for 15 or more days in a calendar year. That is a non-residential use."
• Add short-term rentals licensed by selectmen as a permitted use anywhere singl- family homes are permitted.
• Add short-term rentals licensed by the board of selectmen to Section 110-4 — ”non-applicable” for site-plan review.
The planning board will now go over the recommendations, and if they pass muster, have it posted on the warrant for annual town meeting in April.
The meeting was viewable via Zoom, though all members were present, including Solomon, Realtor Greydon Turner and short-term rental operator Scott Kudrick; selectmen’s representatives Carl Thibodeau and Steve Porter; and Kris Cluff, Tom Reed and Ray Shakir, all abutters to short-term rental properties.
Also present were Town Manager Tom Holmes and Town Planning Director Tom Irving, both of whom are non-voting members, and selectmen’s assistant Krista Day, who took the minutes.
Shakir had raised the issue about nuisance pets at the meeting several weeks prior. He said short-term renters near his Birch Hill home allow their dogs to poop on his property.
He said pets ought not to be allowed for short-term renters.
“They are gone after two days and they don’t care," said Shakir. "My view is that the best way to handle this is no pets allowed in short-term rentals."
Holmes replied that the state statute governing pets requires them to be under owner’s control at all times, though any such restrictions would not apply to service dogs.
Thibodeau asked how one could restrict visitors’ pets but not residents, but said, “there has to be a way to keep pets off a neighbor’s lawn.”
Turner questioned whether the committee was “getting too far out in left field and micromanaging.”
Kudrick made a motion that pets could be one of the items put on a disclosure form for short-term renters, but Solomon said that was putting the cart before the horse because the committee had not yet discussed a disclosure form.
Ultimately, Shakir’s motion to ban pets for short-term rentals failed, 5-2, with Thibodeau abstaining, saying he was “still mulling on this” and that it was “a problem in a lot of neighborhoods.”
“Pets will be a generic thing that an abutter or neighbor can complain about," Solomon said after the meeting, "I am pushing to have one of these third-party agencies manage the complaints.”
Holmes agreed that it could become one of the items, along with excessive noise, failure to remove trash and other issues that could lead to the revocation of a short-term rental operator’s license.
“We can’t tell up front what all the complaints might be. So that will be up to the official regulating this, is my opinion. Then there would be an appeals process if an owner disagrees," said Holmes after the meeting.
Holmes said with any complaint, abutters should take notes and photographs so that could go into the record.
During the board’s discussion of noise issues and disturbing the peace, Holmes said the committee should consider asking the town to adopt a town-wide noise ordinance, not limited just to short-term rentals.
“The state noise ordinance is somewhat ineffective for short-term rentals,” said Holmes after the meeting, adding, “Once or if the town had a noise ordinance, then the police would be more responsive and effective in dealing with it.
'Again, noise complaints would become one of the issues that would go into the bucket of complaints that would be brought up when an operator was looking to renew their license," he said..
The committee voted to recommend the following language: “Short-term rentals shall not interfere with a neighbor’s peaceful enjoyment of their property."
In its discussion of trash removal protocol, members were careful not to restrict how short-term rental operators stored their trash on property, realizing that some prefer dumpsters or stored garbage cans in a garage, while others use trash containers with lids outside.
They recommended that short-term rental operators demonstrate an approved plan for trash removal.
“We are an advisory committee, and we will be making these recommendations to selectmen who will have to go through their process to make a regulation, and they are free to make changes, too,” said Solomon.
The committee is scheduled to meet next at the same location Sept. 16 at 3 p.m. Go to conwaynh.org to find the agenda at the bottom of the selectmen’s page to obtain information about how to follow the meeting on Zoom.