I view the Community Coffees with the Mayor as town meetings. These sessions that include Q&A take place on the last Friday of every month at the Hudson Library.
The main focus at last Friday’s coffee was VRBO. Before the session, I had researched the issue and did a slide presentation summary. Here are some of the highlights.
There are two types of home sharing. One is VRBO, the acronym for Vacation Rental By Owner. This phenomenon is not new to Highlands. We have had a short-term vacation rental market for many years. In the past these vacation rentals were handled mostly by real estate professionals. Realtors continue to manage many of these rentals, but we also have an expanding market where homeowners do VRBO.
The other rental type is Air B&B. The acronym stands for Air Mattress, Bed and Breakfast. Air B&B started with young people renting a room in their house or apartment, maybe with an air mattress in spare room, and providing breakfast for guests.
While I see VRBO as being something manageable, Air B&B has other issues. The town and county have rules and regulations about bed and breakfast businesses. Namely, inspections in the fire, safety, and food have to be passed. Highlands has no such requirements for Air B&Bs.
At the coffee, I pointed out zoning issues for both Air B&B and VRBO. For instance, renting part of a home in an R1 or R2 zone may violate the single-family occupancy requirement. I say “may” because there could be some ambiguity in the ordinance that staff and the Land Use Committee should review.
In regard to VRBO, it is legal according to current ordinances to do a short term rental of a home, so long as the owner is not residing in the property at the same time. For instance, my wife and I have a full-lower level of our home with two bedrooms and a bath. We can’t rent that part and stay in the home at the same time according to current ordinances. Two separate family entities occupying one residence is basically a duplex, which is not allowed in R1 or R2. Again, a review of these issues is needed.
At the coffee I proposed some basic regulations concerning VRBO and Air B&B. I proposed there be a town registration requirement for VRBOs and a responsible party identified in case of problems or emergencies. Also, occupancy levels, parking issues, trash disposal, noise. and public order requirements may need to be included. A prohibition of business type activities not allowed in residential areas should be reaffirmed and included.
Our driving concern should be the preservation of the character and quality of residential zones and thereby avoid the “motelization” of neighborhoods. I believe there was a strong consensus of those at the coffee that this is the direction to take. The question will be how do we get there with fair and consistent policies.
- Town of Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor