JACKSON — The Jackson Planning Board will hold a public hearing Thursday on proposed zoning changes that would regulate short-term rentals with the goal of ensuring public safety and providing a mechanism to address potential problem households.
Thursday’s public hearing on the ordinance will be held at 7 p.m. at town offices. If adopted, the proposal would be put on the warrant for town meeting in March.
The proposed changes are posted at the Jackson Post Office, at the town offices and also online at tinyurl.com/jaxstr.
Among the provisions is a limit of 25 short-term rentals a year for properties located in the Rural Residential District, unless the unit or another unit on the same property is occupied by at least one full-time resident.
“Not 25 days per year — 25 rentals per year, which could be multi-days,” said planning board chair Bill Terry.
Scott Badger, vice chair, said the provision would give second-home owners the opportunity to rent and cover expenses. “But it also removes the incentive for someone looking to buy a property and rent it out solely as a short-term rental business investment,” he added.
The proposed ordinance defines short-term rentals as “transient lodging ... provided for compensation for stays of between one and 30 consecutive nights, and where the dwelling unit would normally be considered a residential living unit not associated with regulated commercial activities such as a hotel, motel or bed-and-breakfast.”
Another recommended zoning change would require property owners to file a conditional use permit application to operate a short-term rental “with an appropriate fee (yet to be determined).”
Owners would have to “provide the name, address, and telephone number of a person within the state who is authorized to accept service of process for any legal proceeding brought against the owner of the property, as required by RSA 540:1-b.”
Selectmen would forward the applications to the planning board for review, and the planning board would then return it to selectmen for denial or approval. Neither board would have to hold public hearings on the applications.
Terry said the goal is to ensure that police and fire personnel have someone relatively nearby to contact in case of emergency.
As part of the application process, dwelling units (as defined in Section 3 of the ordinance) would have to pass a joint inspection by the fire department and building inspector that would look for smoke/carbon monoxide detectors; windows or doors for emergency egress; basement use (“No basement space shall be used as sleeping areas unless there are properly sized egress windows and/or doors conforming to the town’s adopted codes”); and a functioning fire extinguisher in any kitchen area.
In order not to put a strain on septic systems, there would also be a limit on the number of guests based on number of bedrooms.
“The maximum number of people that the dwelling unit can be advertised for in any published listing or other form of marketing shall be two people for each bedroom listed on the town issued building permit,” the proposed ordinance says.
It also addresses parking — “all vehicles shall be parked on the property and in designated parking areas” — and sets up a mechanism for issuing fines for violations.
The first citation would result in a warning, a second in a civil penalty of $275 and a third violation would result in revocation of the conditional use permit. If that happens, the owner would not be allowed to apply for reinstatement for a year.
Using a dwelling unit for short-term rentals without a valid conditional use permit would subject the property owner to fines and penalties outlined in RSA 676:17.
“A lot of this came from legislation that Laconia is working on, and then we brought those drafts to Peter Malia, our town attorney, and he made changes,” said Badger.
Badger said that in the commercial district, short-term rental owners would need only to register and be inspected for basic fire and safety codes. “As long as you pass inspection, you would be approved and there would be no limitation on how long or what kind of business you can do,” said Badger.
“We’re trying to strike a balance between providing appropriate lodging for our tourist guests while at the same time preserving a dynamic community by promoting available housing for long-term rentals and ownership,” he added.
Badger said various data sources estimate that Jackson is home to 100-150 active short-term rentals.