The deadline on the Conway selectmen's vaguely written notification to owners of short-term rentals is coming up next week. So far, it’s anyone's guess as to when or if they will begin actual enforcement of the town zoning ordinance that prohibits almost all STRs.
The notification, sent last month, said, “If you have an owner-occupied short-term rental in one of the town’s residential districts, and you have not received permission from the town, please contact the town’s Planning Department.” It goes on to say, "We would prefer to achieve voluntary compliance as opposed to an enforcement action. Please let us know your position within 30 days of the date of this letter regarding voluntary compliance."
Not a word about consequences for property owners if they don't respond or comply. Not a word about when or if they will get cease-and-desist orders and fines.
To compound their clear-as-mud enforcement policy, selectmen released an "FAQ" document (published last Thursday in the Sun) that provided a detailed history — and justification — of the their decision to ban STRs, but again, not a word about enforcement.
At the same time, selectmen have lawyered up and hired attorney Russ Hilliard of the law firm Upton & Hatfield “to deal with anticipated litigation."
So what’s next? Are the selectmen hoping the courts will decide one way or the other on the ban before they have to begin enforcement? Courts move slowly, so that scenario is unlikely.
With no transparency on the town's end, we can only speculate, but one possibility is they have no idea what they will do next.
We do know the selectmen are under tremendous pressure to give hundreds of Conway STR owners the benefit of a grace period, not to mention salvaging the summer plans of thousands of vacationers. And, given that the board has opted for years not to ban STRs, a grace period would be a legitimate way to give everyone time to adjust.
Maybe, just maybe, they are considering it. If not, they should.