CONWAY — Voters at the polls at Kennett High School on Tuesday roundly rejected a proposal that would have allowed short-term rentals in residential areas. However, a related noise ordinance passed overwhelmingly.
Now the question is, what’s next?
Does the defeat of the short-term regulations mean the town will be mailing out cease-and-desist orders tomorrow to the 500-odd rental properties in Conway? The short answer is no.
Minutes after the results were announced, Selectman John Colbath said: “We do not have the information to decide what to do next.”
Added Selectman Mary Carey Seavey: “I want to hear what town attorney Peter Malia has to say. If we are going to issue cease and desists, it has to be orderly.”
Colbath said he believes many people voted against the regulations because they thought within a month there would be properties for lower-income people to buy. “The reality is that’s not going to happen,” he said.
Asked about the results, Town Manager Tom Holmes said, “I figured,” adding that the town seemed to turn against short-term rentals and developed an anti-tourist sentiment over the course of the pandemic shutdown.
Despite the controversy, by all accounts the election went smoothly. “It’s been very civil,” said Peter Donohoe, who was campaigning against short-term-rentals with his wife, Lynn Lymann who chairs the Kearsarge Lighting Precinct. “We’ve had some terrific conversations with neighbors and friends.”
There were two races for planning board. Incumbents Ben Colbath and Steven Hartmann, who had been serving as chairman, were challenged for their three-year seats by Erik Corbett and Steven Steiner, who has been serving as an alternate.
Colbath and Corbett won with 870 and 688, respectively. Hartmann, who asked voters to consider putting new blood on the board, received 385 votes.
Steiner received 342 votes.
Ted Phillips, Raymond Shakir, who was also serving as an alternate, and Eliza Grant ran for the two-year position created by the resignation of Earl Sires in February.
Grant took the seat with 675 votes, while Phillips came in second with 283 and Shakir came in third with 270.
Bob Drinkhall and Stacy Sand were the only two running for four three-year seats on the municipal budget committee.
However, chairman Jim LeFebvre in a letter to the editor Tuesday recommended voters write in two former members of the committee, Diane Ryan and Terry McCarthy. Also running a write-in campaign was a woman named Kit Hickey who campaigned beside Grant at the polls.
Write-in results were not available at press time, but Drinkhall got 962 votes and Sand 1,064. Bill Marvel was the one candidate to run for a one-year seat on the budget committee and he received 863 votes.
At around the time polls closed Tuesday, 1,544 ballots cast of which only about 120 were absentee. Last year, when the election was held in May in a drive-thru there were 1,457 voters but only 531 came though the highway garage. In 2019, the last regular April election, the turnout was about 1,030.
Hoping to enlarge the housing supply, Article 4 changes the criteria that must be met to allow the zoning board to grant a special exception to convert homes built before 1930 into multifamily housing. One of those conditions is the dwelling units shall be used for long-term residency; short-term transient occupancy of less than 30 consecutive days of any dwelling unit is prohibited.” Article 4 passed 1,014-468.
Article 8, a request by the Conway PD for $8,500 for a radar speed trailer, passed 940-548.
Article 20 asks the town to allow selectmen to appoint two representatives to a Carroll County Broadband Communications District planning committee passed 1,230-209.
Article 24 asked for South View Loop be accepted as a town road. The lead petitioner is Jeremy Abbott. He said the road is a fraction of a mile and has about a half-dozen residences. He said it had been maintained by a private association but the association is now defunct and the residents there are asking the town for help with the road.
Town Engineer Paul DegliAngeli asked selectmen and the budget committee not to recommend this article, because he said part of the road was built before the town required roads to be inspected to ensure they meet standards; because around 2006 a top coat of pavement was left unfinished; and because the petition came in after the Oct. 1 deadline, which is intended to give time for the town engineer to inspect the road before the snow falls.
South View Loop will have to wait for acceptance because the article failed 1,056-345.
Article 7 was the town’s $12 million operating budget passed 1,005 to 446.
Articles 8-15 called for raising money for various capital reserve funds all passed.
Article 18, for $8,500 for a radar speed trailer for police passed 940-548.
Article 19 called for a $10,000 contribution to the Eastern Slope Regional Airport in Fryeburg, Maine passed 788-644.
Articles 25-34 call for donations of differing amounts to various local nonprofits. All of them passed easily.
Incumbent selectmen John Colbath and Steve Porter ran unopposed. Colbath received 1,185 votes and Porter, 1,078.
“I like my chances,” said Porter at the polls.