CONWAY — A separate one-year moratorium article on short-term rentals townwide in Conway has been added to a proposed moratorium on hotels and commercial buildings over 50,000 square feet that will appear on the town meeting ballot in April.
The Conway Planning Board will present the warrant articles at a public hearing set for Jan. 26.
Creating a separate STR moratorium was suggested by Deputy Town Manager Paul DegliAngeli and Town Planner Jamel Torres and recommended to the board at its Dec. 8 work session.
“We ended up with two proposed moratoriums — one for hotels and commercial buildings greater than 50,000 square feet, and one for short-term rentals,” said town attorney Jason Dennis.
“The language for both is nearly identical," he said.
The warrant article for hotels and commercial buildings reads:
“To see if the town will vote to adopt an ordinance establishing a temporary town-wide moratorium, to be in effect for one year, stopping the issuance of building permits, granting of subdivision approval, and granting of site plan approval for hotels, motels, resort hotels, and commercial structures greater than or equal to 50,000 square feet, not including multifamily residential structures. This ordinance shall not apply to any project or work that (a) has already received all necessary approvals, (b) received conditional approval, (c) does not require any new or additional planning board or zoning board application or review, and (d) consists of reasonable repair or restoration necessitated by any natural disaster, act of God, or loss covered by insurance."
The section about STRs reads: “To see if the town will vote to adopt an ordinance establishing a temporary town-wide moratorium, to be in effect for one year, to stop the issuance of building permits for any structures that will newly be utilized for residential rentals less than 30 days.”
The town contends its zoning regulations do not allow STRs in residential zones but is waiting for a lawsuit challenging that interpretation to be decided by the state Supreme Court. The lawsuit was filed by STR operator Scott Kudrick and is expected to be decided this spring.
According to town code enforcement officer Jeremy Gibbs, the town has 39 short-term rentals in the Highway commercial district, 438 in the residential/agricultural district, 13 in the resort recreation district, 19 in the village commercial district and 80 in the village residential districts.
“The moratorium on short-term rentals is not intended to be an end-run around the Kudrick case,” said Dennis.
“There are so many lodging rooms in the valley that require the attention of infrastructure from a zoning perspective. A moratorium is about giving the town time to update its master plan and for the town to focus on the longterm health of the town," he said, adding, "The moratorium would be for new proposed short-term rentals in the commercial zone, not for anyone currently doing it.”
Dennis provided the following language in support of the moratorium.
"Because they serve as the functional equivalent of hotels and motels, residential rentals for less than 30 days, so-called short-term rentals, contribute to the adverse impact on the town.
"Additionally, because of excessive noise, illegal parking, trash, and disorderly conduct, short-term rentals create further stress the town’s resources and services, including police, fire, municipal waste services, and emergency medical services.
“Due to unbalanced development, a large part of town staff time in the Planning Department is dedicated to reviewing significant commercial plans, resulting in more administrative staff time than planning-oriented staff time.
“Staff also has to spend time addressing complaints related to short-term rentals, particularly in residential neighborhoods.
“Due to the demand upon town staff resources, staff has not had the capacity to be proactive in creating/reviewing ordinances, looking for alternative ways of solving town problems, and updating the master plan.”
The “proposed moratorium would help to free up staff planning resources to not solely review large commercial projects, but also allow them to allocate time and energy to proactive planning measures for the health, comfort, convenience, safety, welfare and prosperity of the Town and its citizens. The proposed moratorium will help the Town work to restore the work/life balance that Conway needs.
“As a tourism destination town, Conway needs time to alleviate pressures that are currently being exacerbated by commercial development that has been coming at a faster and faster rate in the past few years. It will also help to alleviate the adverse impacts referenced herein and help forestall further decline in year-round population, along with decreased workforce and decreased services.”
If the moratorium goes to the voters and is adopted, it would take effect after town meeting and extend to April 2024.
Selectmen’s planning board representative Steve Porter and planning board chair Ben Colbath agreed that the measures are designed to slow growth to give town staff and the board time to update the town’s master plan.
Updating the master plan is soon to get underway with the help of a consultant, the SE Group of Burlington, Vt.
A master plan community open house is set to be held Feb. 8 from 3-7 p.m. at Tuckerman Brewing Co. in Conway Village so the public can meet members of the SE Group and the planning board, and where the the updating process will be explained.
According to Torres, the first two meetings for the Master Plan Steering, Committee, comprised of the seven members of the planning board and seven members from the community, will be held Feb. 9 and March 9 from 5:30-7 p.m. prior to planning board meetings.
Also on the agenda Jan. 26 is a request by selectmen for a rehearing with regard to the Tarberry Companies’ approved proposal to transform 6,226 square feet of retail and 1,144 square feet of support space into three quick-service food and beverage venues at the former Olympia Sports store in North Conway Village.
Selectmen want the planning board to revisit the parking waiver that the planning board granted at its Dec. 8 meeting.