TREMONT — Regulating the length of stay at local Airbnb rentals is not under the jurisdiction of the Board of Selectmen, Chairman Kevin Buck told a disgruntled neighbor on Monday night.
An issue that was brought before the town’s Planning Board a year ago came before selectmen after Code Enforcement Officer John Larson and Town Manager Chris Saunders agreed to serve a cease-and-desist order to the owners of Howling Woods at 48 Backfield Road.
“This has been going on for four years,” Joey Wedge told selectmen. Wedge is a neighbor to Howling Woods. He has been vocal in his objection to the way the 7-acre property is used. “There’s no running water. They’re having campfires. There’s no pressurized water. It’s a campground, is what it is.”
Howling Woods owners Brendan O’Keefe and Jarly Bodilla went before the Planning Board in June 2017 to ask for permission to use the rustic buildings they have on their property under the “home occupation – Bed and Breakfast” use. That request was denied by the Planning Board because it did not meet the town’s ordinance standards for that use.
In the town’s zoning ordinance, any overnight stays of seven days or less in a “home occupation” property is considered commercial use. The area of Tremont where the property is located is zoned for residential use only.
Howling Woods advertises stays in their buildings on Airbnb, where several properties within the same zone in Tremont also are listed. At least two found on the site listed stays of three days or more required, four days less than the ordinance states.
“I see [Airbnb rentals] as becoming a problem in the town of Tremont,” Wedge said.
“We’re doing whatever John is telling us to do,” O’Keefe said, about working with Larson, the code enforcement officer. “We put in four primitive septic [systems]. We don’t have running water; we’re doing something a little different … . Why would we be inspected and everyone else wouldn’t be?”
The town lacks the resources to inspect all home occupations, Buck said.
“It sounds like it is a zoning issue,” he added, saying a zoning ordinance change would have to go before voters at a town meeting. “There’s really nothing we can do here tonight, other than hear you out.”
Neighbors initially complained of extra traffic on Backfield Road, O’Keefe said, so he installed two speed bumps. There are two structures on the property available for rent, and neither have public utilities within them. O’Keefe lives with his fiancée, Candace Daley, in another structure. It also lacks public utilities.
“We have people coming here from cities who want to come and chop wood and unplug,” Daley said in an interview at the property. They have had renters come from France, Germany and Texas.
“A seven-day rental is complying with the zoning [ordinance]?” Daley asked the board during the meeting. “Then, that’s what we’ll do.”
“We just want this settled,” O’Keefe told selectmen. “We just want peace on our road.”