CONWAY — More answers about how the town plans to move forward with its ban on short-term rentals will be coming next week, Town Manager Tom Holmes said Tuesday.
He also said the town has filled an assistant building inspector position in
order to help with enforcement.
Conway selectmen issued a statement last week explaining that since voters in April rejected their proposed set of STR regulations, which would legally have allowed non-owner-occupied short-term rentals in residential districts, the town has no option but to enforce existing regulations that prohibit such rentals.
Town Code Officer David Pandora on May 7 issued a letter to rental property owners, informing them that due to an April 13 town vote, STRs are allowed only in residential districts and only if the home is owner-occupied and has applied for and received permission from the town. Property owners were given 30 days to respond.
A Tele-Talk survey appearing in today’s edition that asked readers when they thought the town should issue cease-and-desist notices to STR owners, received an overwhelming number of responses, most of which said, “Never,” or at least until the Legislature had ruled on their legality.
Asked about this Tuesday, Holmes said: “I haven’t been given the leave to say which path the town’s going take as far as enforcement yet.” But he added: “We’re pretty close to making a decision.”
Holmes said town department heads were set to meet with town attorneys on Wednesday. Those include town counsel Peter Malia of Hastings Malia in Fryeburg, Maine, and Russ Hilliard of Upton & Hatfield LLP.
“That should pretty much give us a road going forward,” said Holmes about the meeting. “And I say after the next selectmen’s meeting, the next statement will probably be the path we’re taking to address these issues.”
Meanwhile, Holmes said the town offered Jeremy Gibbs the newly created position of assistant building inspector, which was included in 2021 budget.
Gibbs has been working for the town recreation department in the summer as a parks supervisor and in the winter as a snow plow driver for the public works department.
Holmes said that Gibbs has been a town employee for 10 years, and both he and Parks and Rec Director John Eastman praised Gibbs as a hardworking and competent employee.
Eastman, by phone, said Gibbs has built a variety of structures for the Rec Department, such as the kiosk at Hussey Field. Holmes, who has known Gibbs for years, said Gibbs is a former Marine who saw action in Afghanistan and Iraq before coming to work for the town.
“I know Jeremy’s work ethic and personality well enough to know that he’ll be a great success in this position, or die trying,” said Holmes.
In the run-up to the April town meeting, in which the town budget was approved, Holmes said the assistant inspector position was needed to help “wrangle” short-term rentals. However, since the vote. Holmes and selectmen decided the position was still needed.
“It did not occur to us to consider this position if they didn’t pass,” said Holmes. “But once that happened, we looked at it when we got we got a whole new kettle of fish. Now we’ve got to enforce these things completely, you know, a lot of work and manpower.”
About $46,000 has been budgeted for the new position. Holmes said if all goes well, Gibbs will start June 7.
Holmes also said the issue of public restrooms in North Conway Village will be revisited at the selectmen’s June 8 meeting. The North Conway Community Center had offered up its restrooms for public facilities — but only if the town agrees to fund the cost of cleaning them.
The lack of bathrooms came to a head last summer as the town was deluged with tourists.
Carrie Burkett, executive director of the community center, told the Sun on Wednesday she would keep the paper posted. “Hoping to make something work!” she said.
Meanwhile, the community center bathrooms have apparently reopened for use by playground users Monday-Friday until camp is in session.