Fayston Planning Commission discusses short-term rentals

Karen Sauther of the Fayston Planning Commission presented the Short Term Rentals (STR) commission’s preliminary research to the Fayston Select Board on September 28 to determine whether the city sees fit to devote resources to managing STRs. There has been a lot of discussion on social media and within the Mad River Valley community recently about the impacts of STRs, like Airbnb and VRBO, and the commission’s goal was to open a discussion.

STRs are defined as accommodation rented at least 14 days per calendar year, but not to a single individual for more than 30 days. STRs are subject to a 9% Vermont room and meal tax. Governor Scott vetoed a bill in July that would create a national rental housing registry, in addition to transferring authority over rental housing health and safety to the Department of Public Safety and creating the Vermont Rental Housing Investment Program. Currently, there are no regulations in place on STRs at the state or city level.

Sauther said there are around 470 active STR listings in The Valley, including 183 in Fayston. She said data from 2018 showed 18.9% of housing units in Fayston are STRs.

Sauther expressed concern about the impact of STRs on The Valley and in particular on Fayston, as well as the perceived and actual benefits. “It’s a complex question,” Sauther said. She said STRs emphasize infrastructure, including water supply systems and septic tanks, increase traffic, limit parking and deplete existing housing. She noted that the perceived benefits include bringing tourism resources to the local economy, but said there was no supporting evidence. She also raised the issue of the shrinking workforce in The Valley due to the housing shortage and the impact of this workforce shortage on local businesses.

Recently, the Mad River Housing Coalition proposed a plan to adopt a Mad River Valley Housing Trust Fund in Waitsfield, Warren and Fayston to help address the affordable housing problem.

“It has to be a community-wide effort,” said Fayston Select board chairman Jared Cadwell. “The problem is valley wide and should be resolved,” added Board member Chuck Martel. The board agreed that Fayston should not act alone and should discuss with Waitsfield and Warren how to resolve the issue.

“I think we have a lot to learn,” Cadwell said. Sauther asked the board for clarification on what data is needed to move the action forward and what questions to ask. The next steps are to figure out what additional information needs to be gathered and connect with other towns in The Valley to decide what can be done to regulate the rental market.

Close is a UVM student who participates in the school’s community newspapers project which pairs student journalists with Vermont community newspapers.

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