Woodstock puts pause on short
By Katy Savage
Woodstock is temporarily suspending short-term rental and bed and breakfast permits while the Planning Commission reviews enforcement and compliance issues.
The Woodstock Select Board voted unanimously Aug. 15 to suspend short term rental and bed and breakfast applications for six months, starting Oct. 1 and ending March 31.
Steven Bauer, the director of planning and zoning, proposed a review process.
“A lot of things are going well,” he said at the meeting. “A lot of things aren’t going perfect.”
The town started regulating short-term rentals five years ago, requiring homeowners to register their rental and go through three enforcement agencies while paying a series of fees. The Woodstock fire department, the state fire marshal and the town planning board reviews the permit applications. The process then requires short-term rental owners to acquire a conditional use permit for $375 plus pay a commercial conversion fee of $550 and a recording fee of $15. There’s another $200 fee due to the fire department if the property is in the town or $275 fee if the property is in the Village.
“Right now it’s burdensome to say the least to go through the process,” Bauer said in a phone interview. “It’s time for a review. Does it have to be this difficult?”
The regulations further prohibit Village homeowners from renting their properties more than six times a year, except during foliage season, when they can rent their properties as much as they want as long as they are the primary residence.
In the town, homeowners can rent their property no more than 10 times a year with the same exception during foliage season.
Bauer said it takes a property owner an average of 80 days to go through the permit process. And, there is little enforcement for those out of compliance.
“The enforcement highly relies on complaints being filed,” he said.
There are currently 68 short-term rental properties registered with the town and Village, yet there are around 98 active listings on rental websites.
“There’s definitely some people who are non-compliant,” Bauer said. “It makes for an unfair advantage for people that are skirting or ignoring the regulations.”
Some residents at the meeting on Aug. 15 questioned the economic impact of the moratorium.
Derek Dumas, a short term rental owner, said some homeowners would be unwilling to wait six months and may list their property without going through the appropriate approval process.
“You’re shutting the door in their face — do they become one of the people that don’t follow the rules?” Dumas said.
Brett Ralph, a resident of Maple Street in Woodstock, said he manages over 100 vacation rental properties in the Upper Valley — most of which are in Quechee. He said the moratorium will impact his business and his employees.
“What kind of impact will that have on the town?” he said.
Jennifer Falvey, a Woodstock resident and real estate agent, said the waiting period would decrease home values.
“Short term rentals have an impact on the real estate value of all our homes,” she said.
The board made it clear the moratorium only impacts Woodstock town properties. It will not impact people who are currently renting short-term rentals or bed and breakfasts.