MADISON — The planning board is scheduled to discuss short-term rentals at their meeting of Aug. 4.
The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at Town Hall. At the previous meeting of July 7, resident Shawn Bergeron, owner of Bergeron Technical Services, which is in a planning and zoning business addressed the board and offered a draft short-term rental ordinance to consider.
Madison and Freedom are among the local towns that may propose their residents short-term rental at their town meetings next year. Meanwhile in Conway, voters in the spring rejected a warrant article that would formally allow STRs in residential areas. Now, selectmen are involved in a court case aimed at shutting them down.
"You'd have to be living under a rock in the Mount Washington Valley and maybe in our country if you don't realize that we have planning and zoning issues with short-term rentals," said Bergeron July 7.
According to Bergeron, STRs aren't addressed in Madison's existing ordinances. There are approximately 170 STRs in Madison.
"I don't think that Conway has done the best job at handling this and I would not like to repeat that here," said Bergeron. "If we don't learn from somebody else's mistake we could conceivably go down the same path."
Bergeron, who is a former Conway Code Compliance Officer, said during his career he's had the opportunity to inspect many short-term rentals and found "too many that are inherently unsafe."
"When I see basements with eight sets of bunkbeds and one stairway leading out of that basement that's a problem," said Bergeron.
In addition to life safety, another issue is overcrowding in homes, overburdening septic systems and noise.
In response to a question from planning board chairman Marc Ohlson, Bergeron said inspirations for his draft ordinance came from places ranging from Jackson to Boseman, MT and his own experience.
Bergeron defines short-term rentals as having fewer than 16 occupants and stays of up to 30 nights in residential dwelling units as opposed to bed and breakfasts.
Short-term renting would require a conditional use permit. The planning board would give a recommendation to selectmen and selectmen would be responsible for issuing the permit or not. Bergeron also adds various life safety measures such as smoke directors being required.
The property owner would also have to have a management company or agent for the town to contact in the event the owner could not be reached.
Bergeron adds that nuisances or safety hazards reported by lodgers or abutters may trigger an inspection.
Selectmen's chairman William Lord, who is the selectmen's representative to the planning board, told the planning board that there is a great deal of interest in this subject.
The Sun Tuesday, July 27, asked Bergeron what went wrong in Conway and if he was referring to selectmen or voters when he says Conway didn't handle the issue well.
Bergeron said everyone could be "thrown into the mix."
"It's unfortunate that we've divided Conway into two enemy camps," said Bergeron. "I think some appropriate conversation, communications, and so on, could have gone a long ways towards preventing this from having to come where it is today."
During Tuesday's phone interview, Bergeron stressed that in his view STRs don't need to be banned but "intelligently regulated."
"How you licensed them, or permit them, Daymond, is really not necessarily that that critical," said Bergeron.
Asked what would happen hypothetically if Madison residents rejected proposed STR regulations at town meeting and if Madison would end up like Conway.
He said Conway and Madison have different regulations. Conway has an owner occupancy requirement for such rentals while Madison does not. So, short-term rentals would not be banned in Madison the event proposed regulations failed.
"It's my opinion that Madison does not have a regulation that prevents short term rentals," said Bergeron.
A reporter asked Bergeron if he felt area towns should consider handling the issue of STRs as a region with similar regulations.
He said "that wouldn't be a bad idea for towns like Albany, Bartlett, Conway, Eaton, Freedom, Jackson and Madison to work on this together.
"It would be more efficient, more effective, and better for the taxpayers of all these communities if they would get together and work this out as a group," said Bergeron.