MADISON — The planning board voted 6-1 not to recommend a petitioned warrant article that seeks to restrict short-term rentals from residential neighborhoods.
District of Eidelweiss residents Nick Borelli and Kathy Koziell led a petition effort to define dwelling unit as prohibiting “transient occupancies” such as hotels, motels … or similar short-term lodging accommodations to paying guests for as little as one night.”
Borelli said it would have the effect of limiting STRs to commercial areas and prohibiting them in residential neighborhoods that have been disrupted with noise and traffic due to the rentals.
On Wednesday, the planning board was scheduled to vote whether to recommend the article or not. They chose not to recommend. This means voters in March will see that the planning board doesn’t approve of the article.
Meanwhile, the planning board has a proposed definition of short-term rental to be voted on in March as well.
Planning board member Jay Buckley was concerned the planning board’s STR definition could fail and the petitioned one could pass. Buckley rents short-term in Eidelweiss.
“I think we’re putting the cart before the horse,” said Buckley. “I think we need to put the definition in place and then use it to create regulations as petitioned article has.”
Fellow board member David Cribbie agreed that before short-term rentals can be regulated, the town’s first step should be defining them. He has “grave concerns” with the way the article is written.
“Technically, if this passes, that means that there’s no renting properties in Madison at all because it’s anything over one night,” said Cribbie. “So that means that literally there’s no renting of any homes in Madison with this…long term, short term, period.”
Selectmen’s representative to the planning board Josh Shackford reminded everyone that the petitioned article would go on the ballot no matter what the planners’ recommendation is.
“So whatever we say … it really doesn’t matter,” said Shackford. “The voters of Madison are going to have final say. So there’s no sense in arguing. We’ve argued this for a year.”
Ultimately, the planners voted 6-1 not to support the petitioned article with Shackford in the minority. Planning board member Charlie Allen was absent.
Before the vote, LaRoche said the town needs to slow down. He said the issue is being addressed by Senate Bill 249.
The Sun spoke to Borelli after he left the meeting. Borelli said he was “very upset.” He criticized the planning board’s definition of short-term rentals because it would allow people and businesses to turn homes into hotels.
“You could have people like the Marriott family come in and buy whatever they want,” said Borelli, who tried to clarify what his petition would do. “It would not allow anybody to run a motel, hotel type business or a short-term rental in a residential zone.”
Borelli later said he was surprised by the planning board’s vote. He said his article is based on the New Hampshire Supreme Court case from Portsmouth. “Businesses belong in commercial zones,” he said.
Borelli disagrees with the planning board’s contention that his article would prevent people from renting to tenants long-term.
He said Buckley, who owns an STR, and any other member with a possible conflict of interest shouldn’t have voted on his article.
Borelli added that the planning board had sought to make STRs allowed by special exception and drafted an ordinance to that effect, but it was not properly noticed for Dec. 1. So, board members voted not to bring that ordinance forward this year.
The following are the definitions the Madison Planning Board is proposing for STRs and dwelling units:
• Short-Term Rental: A non-owner occupied residential dwelling unit where transient lodging with sleeping accommodations for fewer than 16 occupants is provided for compensation for stays of any duration between one and 30 consecutive nights, and where the dwelling unit would normally be considered a residential living unit not associated with regulated commercial activities such as but not limited to a hotel, motel or bed-and- breakfast.
• Dwelling Unit: One or more rooms arranged, designed, or used for non-transient residential purposes with independent sanitary and cooking facilities.
At another point in the meeting, Selectman Marc Ohlson said the planners’ attorney, Laura Spector-Morgan of Mitchell Municipal Group in Concord, told the board any existing STRs would be grandfathered in.
However, selectmen announced last month they are prohibiting short-term rentals in the Eidelweiss Residential District and those who persist will be fined hundreds of dollars.
The selectmen’s attorney is Diane Gorrow of Soule, Leslie, Kidder, Sayward & Loughman of Salem.
There are an estimated 170 or so STRs in town.