Subcommittee to explore regulation of short-term rentals like Airbnb in Redding, CT

REDDING – Short-term rentals in town are no longer regulated, but that could change.

The Board of Selectmen voted Monday to create a subcommittee to research issues with short-term rentals like those found through Airbnb and VRBO, and write a proposal to the city regarding their possible regulation.

“Redding does not currently regulate Airbnbs, nor do many of our neighboring communities – but we had someone come forward … and asked us to create regulations for Airbnbs,” first selector Julia Pemberton said during of the September 19 meeting.

The Short Term Rental Sub-Committee was created on the recommendation of the Planning Commission, which received a letter from a South Lane resident regarding a single family home on his road which “appears to be used almost entirely for Airbnb”, according to Pemberton.

There are over a dozen short term rentals in Redding currently listed on short term rental websites. At least one is run by a short-term rental management company, but most have been listed by the properties’ legal owners.

Many people who use sites like Airbnb and VRBO to rent out their properties say it has helped provide an additional source of income that has helped them maintain or improve their homes.

Cathy Whelehan – who has rented the upstairs of a converted barn of more than 1,500 square feet in Redding for years – said she was doing so for financial reasons.

Whelehan said the barn came with the property when she bought it 23 years ago and has “always been a legal rental apartment”.

“We decided to buy it because we could get income from the apartment to help pay the mortgage,” she said, noting there was a tenant living in the upper space. of the barn when she purchased the property in 1999.

After more than a decade of long-term leases, Whelehan decided to list the apartment on Airbnb.

“We moved it to short-term rentals to make more money,” she said. “With inflation and taxes going up all the time, it’s quite difficult.”

“Since we put it on Airbnb, we’ve done both short-term and long-term leases,” she said. “During COVID, someone was there for about six months.”

Whelehan said she hopes the Board of Selectmen’s subcommittee not only keeps in mind local short-term rental hosts, but also the benefits of short-term rentals to the community.

“People who come to our sleepy little bedroom community for the weekend, who drive, go to Georgetown, get groceries and visit places like the Apple Barn (Aspetuck Valley) – I think that’s a bonus for the city,” she said. “They might end up saying, ‘I want to come and live here.’ I don’t see any downside to that. »

Pemberton said she reached out to other Western Connecticut Council of Governments member municipalities about what they had done — or planned to do — regarding short-term rentals and received “a lot of feedback.”

The issue of short-term rentals is handled differently in the region. While some have bylaws, many of WestCog’s 18 municipalities do not.

With no current zoning regulations for them, short-term rentals are “not considered a permitted use” in the town of Bethel, according to its planner, Beth Cavagna.

In Stamford, short-term rentals are banned in some zoning districts, while the City of Weston has banned them altogether. Some municipalities require permits.

Under Ridgefield zoning regulations, allowing someone to stay in a private residence for less than 30 days for pay is considered bed-and-breakfast and requires a special permit.

New Fairfield established regulations two years ago requiring landlords to obtain zoning permits if they are going to rent their properties for six days or less, pay $500 for permits every 24 months, have certificates of insurance for the proposed use and living on the same land as the rental or on adjoining land. City regulations also limit short-term rental occupancy to two people per room.

Brookfield bylaws require a zoning permit for short-term rentals and limit the number of times a property can be rented for 14 consecutive days or less to a maximum of three times in a six-month period.

Greenwich also has regulations limiting the number of days a tenant can occupy a residence. Under short-term rental regulations the city passed earlier this year, that’s 30 consecutive days. Greenwich regulations also require every room to have clear “emergency evacuation” and prohibit receptions, weddings, film shoots, photo shoots, company retreats and fundraisers.

The City of Wilton is considering regulating short-term rentals.

Pemberton said the issue of short-term rentals in Redding is a timely and important discussion for the city. Coach Peg O’Donnell agreed.

“It’s an issue that’s not going to go away so we should at least discuss it,” O’Donnell said. “It’s better to be in front than behind.”

The Short Term Rental Sub-Committee will have up to five members, including one representative from the Planning Commission, one from the Zoning Commission and one from the Economic Development Committee, as well as the city ​​zoning. The fifth member has not yet been chosen.

Pemberton said a deadline for the subcommittee to report back to the Board of Selectors with its findings will be established once its members have been selected.

Whatever the subcommittee decides to come up with, Whelehan said she hopes it gives short-term rental hosts “as much freedom and flexibility as possible.”

“I would hate to see them over-regulate,” she said.

If Redding were to adopt safety-related short-term rental regulations, such as “making sure they’re up to code,” Whelehan said she wouldn’t have a problem with that.

“But if they start taxing us more or something, it’s going to be difficult for people,” she said. “With inflation and everything going on and taxes going up all the time, it’s quite difficult. It’s already quite expensive.

The next meeting of the Redding Board of Selectmen is scheduled for October 17 at 7:30 p.m. in the City Hall Hearing Room.

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