Freedom Selectmen Anne Cunningham

Freedom Planning Board chair Anne Cunningham makes a point about short-term rentals at Monday's selectmen's meeting as Fire Chief Rob Cunio looks on. (DAYMOND STEER PHOTO)

FREEDOM — Selectmen on Monday directed the planning board not to craft short-term rental regulations that would make residency a requirement for owners.

At their June 28 meeting, selectmen said the rentals should be regulated but not eliminated.

The planning board kicked off discussions of STRs last month. The goal is to have an ordinance on the warrant next March. In April, Conway voters rejected an article to allow non-owner-occupied STRs, and now Conway is in a Carroll County Superior Court battle with 500 some-odd owners.

One question the planners mulled was whether one should be a full-time town resident to rent a home short-term.

On Monday, planning board chair Anne Cunningham asked selectmen for guidance. The board of selectmen consists of chair Les Babb, Ernie Day and Melissa Florio. Babb was absent Monday.

Cunningham suggested such a requirement would basically ban short-term rentals in town.

"If the board of selectmen were to decide that a license could be granted to anyone owning property in Freedom that sort of put that to bed and let us move forward."

Both Day and Florio said they don't think short-term rentals need to be owner-occupied. Florio said if they mandated it, owners would just rent their properties anyway.

"I agree, I think we would have to open it up to everybody who owns property in town," said Day.

Fire Chief Rob Cunio said he hoped there would be a life safety inspection mandated that would make sure there is an adequate number of egresses with illuminated signs.

He added that without signs, renters may not not know where to go if the power goes out at night and they need to evacuate the home in an emergency.

Selectmen and Cunio also seemed to agree that licensing regulations should seek limit the number of occupants so septic systems aren't overloaded.

Cunningham said she will find out whether it's legal to require a recent inspection for septic. She said town attorney John Ratigan could address questions like that.

A question selectmen raised was whether owners would have to be current on their taxes to rent short-term, and Cunningham said that an attorney would have to answer that.

Cunningham said she expects there will be a public hearing in November or Decemnber on proposals related to land use. Selectmen are in charge of licensing proposals.

The planning board's next meeting is set for Aug. 19. At that time, the board will discuss possible prohibitions on holding events like wedding sat short-term rentals, Cunningham said.

Asked what would happen if proposed regulations failed, Florio said, "We're hoping that through education (at public meetings) that we might have a better outcome than Conway."

Cunningham said she doesn't think people are as negative about short-term rentals in Freedom as they were in Conway.

"I personally think asking people to comply with their septic and be careful with them to help with their guests is not a huge ask," said Cunningham.

Transfer station supervisor Justin "Cubby" Brooks asked if the rentals are commercial or residential and noted that commercial businesses can't use the transfer station but instead have to get a dumpster. He believes short-term renters are leaving their garbage at the gate of the transfer station.

However, having dumpsters placed throughout neighborhoods "wouldn't look pretty," said Florio.

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