Planning Commission grapples for vacation rentals solution

NEWPORT –– Members of the city’s planning commission discussed multiple solutions to solve problems posed by vacation rentals in the city on Monday, giving Newport Community Development Director Derrick Tokos an idea of what the members of the commission thought about each solution.

Among the potential solutions, setting a cap on the number of vacation rentals allowed in the city became a point of contention.

“A cap only perpetuates the problem,” said Commissioner Rob Croteau. “I think we need to discuss where we’re going to locate the VRDs before we discuss a cap.”

Talk of enforcing existing laws and policies governing Newport’s vacation rentals abounded during the discussion, with at least one planning commission member in favor of putting in place a system that would not only better enforce current laws, but improve communication between all parties involved.

“The neighbors have an email that they can send and that email goes to the city for record, a text goes to the police department and the homeowner,” said Michael Franklin, another member. “The text goes to the person that was renting the property and everyone is on the same page, right then, right now.”

That kind of communication, Franklin said, will deter existing homeowners from going to the problem property in question and acting combative towards the people renting the vacation home.

“It still keeps the conflict out of it,” he said. “If you’re a renter and you get a text like that, you’re going to say ‘Hey guys, let’s calm down. Let’s be quiet.’”

Several other methods of solving problems caused by vacation rentals were discussed during the two-hour work session Monday night, including transferability, a guest registry, spacing out vacation rentals and occupancy limits.

On those items, the planning commission members disagreed on whether or not business licenses to operate a vacation rental should be transferable upon sale or if those wishing to operate a vacation rental should get in line to get a license before the cap was met.

Planning commission members also voiced concerns over allowing vacation rentals in specific neighborhoods to go up to 20 percent, and some agreed no more than two people should stay in each bedroom on a property.

“In my own business, I limit occupancy to two people per bedroom, period,” said Lee Hardy, a planning commission member who owns and runs her own vacation rental. “It’s less wear and tear, it’s safer and fire code plays a role in that.”

The solutions were pitched from a vacation rental ad-hoc committee which met several times for 10 months earlier this year to put together ways to limit problems posed by vacation rentals.

Many of these problems, as told by full-time homeowners in Newport near vacation rentals, can include excessive noise from parties, excessive parking that takes street parking away from actual residents, trash in the yard, Port-A-Potties within view of neighbors’ homes, and other nuisances many in various neighborhoods around Newport view as a hindrance in their communities.


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