The Town Council hears a number of modest proposals to streamline the handling of short-term rentals across the community, which were not nearly as significant as originally believed. #MiddletownRI #STR #LiveWorkPlay
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SHORT-TERM RENTAL RULE TWEAKS CONSIDERED
MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (OCTOBER 18, 2021) – Tweaks are being considered to the Town’s short-term rental rules.
The Town Council received a handful of recommended ordinance changes from Town Administrator Shawn J. Brown intended to help streamline the process at a meeting Monday night in Town Hall.
The suggestions were generated out of the work by a council subcommittee that delved deeply into the issue to get the most complete picture possible.
Proposed changes included rules on trash violations, noise and parking, the three main areas where updates were recommended.
“Going into this summer, we placed quite a bit more emphasis on seeing exactly what was going on with short-term rentals,” Brown said. “Based on everything we saw and heard, there wasn’t nearly the problem with them that some people projected. Really, it was more of a registration issue than a short-term rental issue.”
Over the past few months, the council Subcommittee on Short-Term Rentals has been going through the Town’s existing rules and data gathered over the summer on short-term rentals.
The summer of 2021 was the first time the Town officially started cataloguing short-term rental calls to the Police, Building and other departments. The goal of the effort was to get real data on short-term rentals so the Town could make the most informed decisions possible.
Council Vice President Thomas P. Welsh III and Councilmembers Christopher Logan and Barbara A. VonVillas served on the subcommittee. Brown, Police Chief William Kewer, Building Official Chris Costa, Fire Chief James Peplau, Town Clerk Wendy J.W. Marshall and Solicitor Marisa Desautel participated in the meetings, among other Town staff.
Out of the data and review, several common themes emerged. Those included that most short-term rentals followed the rules and were an asset to the community and its businesses.
At the same time, there were a handful of problem areas that needed more supervision, which were handled by the Police and Building departments. To make that job easier, the subcommittee recommended the following:
- Having the Building Department take over the registration of short-term rentals from the Town Clerk’s office to streamline the process.
- Reducing the number of days in the definition of a short-term rental from six months to 31 days.
- Gathering less information on renters to reduce the liability issues for the Town.
- Allowing other Town staff in addition to the Police Department who can enforce rules against leaving trash and recycling bins out all week, a common issue with some short-term rentals.
- Reviewing the Town noise ordinances with the Police Department and solicitor’s office to modernize the Town’s standards while making enforcement easier. The noise ordinance was adopted in 1991 and hadn’t been updated since.
- Asking the Planning Board to review what constitutes a parking space and where parking should be located, items that aren’t as clear as they need to be for residential properties across the community.
“For the first time, we tracked every issue with short-term rentals and that way we could have a clear picture of how they were impacting Middletown,” Brown said. “While there were certainly problem areas, there’s no question that by and large, most of our short-term rental operators are following the rules and doing what they’re supposed to.”
At the end of the discussion, council President Paul M. Rodrigues thanked all the members of the subcommittee for their efforts.
“I want to thank the committee,” Rodrigues said. “That’s a hot, hot potato.”
“The work of the Short-Term Rental Subcommittee was invaluable to come up with recommended changes to our ordinances and rules to make everything work even better with short-term rentals in the future,” Brown agreed. “I think what you see before the council are some commonsense suggestions to smooth things out moving forward."