CONWAY — Kearsarge Lighting Precinct commissioners are slated to meet tonight at 6:30 p.m. at the offices of the North Conway Water Precinct off Sawmill Lane in North Conway to review seven proposals concerning short-term rentals.
Commissioners Rick Jenkinson. M. Lynn Lyman and Joe Difiore will be acting on proposals that were submitted Wednesday by the precinct’s Zoning Review Committee.
On Nov. 25, the committee held a public session that was attended by more than 85 people. The committee then reviewed that input Tuesday night at a session attended by Jenkinson, fellow committee members Karen Umberger, Josh Brustin and Chris Meier. Committee co-chair Nancy Clark was away on business but phoned in to listen to most of the meeting. Precinct clerk Meredith Wroblewski also was present.
Among the 17 people attending was resident Ray Porter, who lobbied for members to pick a specific proposal to recommend to commissioners; however, the committee chose not to.
Instead, they agreed with Meier that their purview was to submit findings in totality and let commissioners decide which, if any, they would recommend. That recommendation would be subject to a public hearing before going on the warrant for annual precinct meeting March 19.
Residents may also submit a petitioned warrant article signed by 25 valid precinct voters by the Dec. 19 deadline.
On Tuesday, Porter had argued that most at the Nov. 25 session were in favor of the first proposal, which calls for no change to the zoning ordinance.
That section stipulates that “all residential properties that offer sleeping accommodations to transient or permanent guests shall be owner occupied and operated.”
The precinct is currently being challenged in Carroll County Superior Court over that section of the zoning ordinance.
Porter also said there was support at the Nov. 25 session for option 2, which allows for owner-occupied short-term rentals and non-owner-occupied long term leases.
“I agree with Ray that the commentary at the public input session overwhelmingly was in support of (options) 1 and 2, but we were there to provide all sorts of information to commissioners for them to act and then ultimately for voters to decide,” Meier told the Sun on Wednesday
Meier said the committee took Umberger and Jenkinson’s input to combine options 2 and 3, the latter of which allows “non-owner-occupied long-term rentals and short-term rentals only in condos/townhouses/approved timeshares.”
The resulting amendment reads:
“All residential properties that offer sleeping accommodations for consideration shall be owner-occupied and owner-operated, except that: 1) any sleeping accommodations rented to a person or persons for a term of more than thirty (30) or more consecutive days are not required to be owner-occupied and operated; (ii) this section shall not apply to Units which are within and members of condominium associations or homeowner associations existing as of December 1, 2019, where the Association covenants and bylaws permit rentals without being owner-occupied; and (iii) this section shall not apply to Units which are within a timeshare property existing as of December 1, 2019, where the timeshare covenants, bylaws, rule, and/or regulations permit rentals without being owner-occupied.”
Meier said the combination allows long-term and short-term rentals in existing condos. "Option 3 allowed long-term rentals and short-term rentals in any condo, but it had a significant procedure where you got a conditional rental agreement,” said Meier, who is an attorney with Cooper Cargill Chant in North Conway.
The group also combined options 4 and 5. Option 4 proposed short-term rentals only in condos, townhouses and approved timeshares, and Option 5 would allow non-owner-occupied short-term rentals in single homes, condos, etc., but by conditional permit granted by the precinct.
Combining them, "Options 4 and 5 would now allow short-term rentals in all types of units subject to strict criteria,” said Meier.
The Zoning Review Committee was formed by commissioners in April and met six times to review the precinct’s zoning ordinance and offer recommendations.
Umberger noted that for tonight's meeting, in addition to parking in front of the North Conway Water Precinct building, there is also parking behind the offices.
For more information, go to kearsargelightingprecinct.org.