Madison selectment with nick and kathy

To the delight of outspoken STR critics Nick Borelli and Kathy Koziel (foreground), Madison selectmen (from left) Bill Lord, Josh Shackford and Michael Mauro decided to tell STR owners in Eidelweiss to stop renting short-term. (DAYMOND STEER PHOTO)

MADISON — Selectmen announced Tuesday they are prohibiting short-term rentals in the Eidelweiss Residential District and those who persist will be fined hundreds of dollars.

The vote came on the heels of complaints by Nick Borelli and Kathy Koziel of Eidelweiss who said STR renters disrupt their neighborhood with traffic and noise. They have argued that the town ordinance, particularly the section about Eidelweiss already prohibit STRs.

Until Tuesday's meeting, selectmen hadn't taken a position. But after getting an opinion from their attorney, they said they decided to issue a letter saying STRs are prohibited in the Eidelweiss development.

In Edelweiss, homes are spaced more closely, and zoning regulations are more restrictive than in other parts of Madison. Selectmen felt they had a greater chance of success there as it is almost purely a residential area.

“If you want a commercial operation, put it in our commercial district,” said Selectman Josh Shackford, who as selectmen's representative to the planning board has been the selectman most closely tracking the STR issue.

Borelli and Koziell had petitioned a warrant article to define short-term rentals, based on a Portsmouth ordinance.

According to selectmen's chair Bill Lord, a town ordinance permits single-family residents to own accessory buildings, home occupations, churches and public buildings in Eidelweiss, but any business or commercial enterprises are “expressly prohibited.”

With nine or so people in the audience, Lord read aloud a draft letter the town will be sending out to STR owners in Eidelweiss, saying they must cease renting immediately.

“Please be aware that if the town is required to commence a legal action against you to remedy the violation, the town will be seeking all remedies available to it under RSA 676:15 and 676:17,” said the letter citing laws pertaining to administrative enforcement procedures.

“Those remedies include a civil penalty of $275 for the first offense and $550 for subsequent offenses for each day the violation is found to continue after the date upon which you receive written notice from the town of the violation.

“This letter is your first notice of violation. If the town prevails in its action, you will also be required to pay the town's attorney fees.”

Lord said the letter had been reviewed by the town's attorney, Diane Gorrow of Soule, Leslie, Kidder, Sayward & Loughman of Salem.

Selectmen said they may at some point decide to send the letter out townwide.

Over the summer, Madison contracted with Granicus Host Compliance to inventory STRs. That company told selectmen there are about 171 STRs in town.

Members of the audience seemed surprised and said “thank you.”

Koziell said the letter was particularly good news as the planning board's attorney, Laura Spector-Morgan of Mitchell Municipal Group in Concord, had said if the town changes its zoning ordinance to prohibit STRs, the STRs that already exist would be grandfathered. But, Koziell said, if STRs are prohibited under existing zoning, then they can't be grandfathered.

Shackford said perhaps the letters could also include language about recent court decisions where the Kearsage Lighting Precinct was victorious over STR owners.

He said the zoning ordinance is designed to protect Madison's rural character.

A draft of the letter shows it will be signed by Code Enforcement Officer Bob Boyd, who was not at Tuesday's meeting. “He's already swamped with just standard building permits,” said Lord.

Selectmen predicted Boyd will get lots of phone calls once the letter goes out and perhaps they will need to increase the size of his voicemail in-box. Madison resident Shawn Bergeron, who had suggested a draft ordinance to the town earlier this year told the Sun if the letter goes out, Madison will find itself in a “mess” legally.

“For one thing, that would be selective enforcement,” Bergeron told the Sun. “A municipality that chooses to begin enforcement of a land use issue, or a perceived issue, in one neighborhood but ignoring the same situation in other neighborhoods is opening themselves up to a huge problem.”

Mt. Washington Valley Association for Responsible Rentals President David Cavanaugh on Wednesday emailed the Sun: “I would have to see the actual statement from the town of Madison to property owners before I comment definitively, but I don’t see where in Eidelweiss’s zoning they could be banned,” said Cavanaugh. “N.H. courts have clearly stated in the Portsmouth and Laconia cases that renting a home is still a residential use and not commercial.”

Police Chief Bob King said there is a legislative service request (precursor to a bill) pending that would prevent towns from banning STRs. The bill is SB 249.

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(2) comments

Paul_Doucette

Locals: 1

People From Away: 0

The people running these STRs (specifically ones that purchased for the sole intent of making money commercially) could care less about the impact that they have on the local housing situation. I applaud Madison and other towns standing up and trying to put a stop to the commercialization of residentially zoned neighborhoods. Locals need places to live too.

Vacationboy

I would think that this issue largely hinges on how the zones are defined within the zoning ordinances. Most ordinances restrict the use of a building within a certain zone. If you own a home in a residentially zoned neighborhood and you choose to rent it out as a home, that is acceptable because the use of the building as a home is permitted. Whether or not it is being rented doesn't matter. If you rented the same home out to someone and the renter used it for a real estate office that would not be permitted because the use is commercial. So how

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