2018-08-02 / Around Town

Short-Term Rentals Debate Continues

By Andy Long

Newport’s Short-Term Rental Investigatory Group continued to discuss the challenges facing the city with the growth of these units at a workshop on July 26 at the Newport Public Library.

“We’re just a workshop, so what we come up with won’t go into law,” Chair Jeff Brooks said. “What we’re going to do is just develop a policy and a recommendation to the City Council, the Planning Board, the Zoning Board, so we can show them the work we did and why we’re making the requests we’re making.”

Brooks attempted to define the different categories of short-term rentals, but other topics kept cropping up.

City Councilor Jamie Bova, a member of the group, said she wanted them to pay attention to the impact on neighborhoods. “I think that a large part of why this group was formed was how residential neighborhoods are being affected by the short-term rentals of whole homes without any owner oversight at all,” she said.

“To me, that’s the biggest thing I’d like to see come out of this group, recommendations of how we deal with that.”

Attorney Turner Scott, also a member of the group, said that a prohibition in Newport’s ordinances that prevented transient rental housing or a short-term rental for under 30 days in a residential area would provide a solution. Scott was referring to an entire house being rented without an owner or agent on-site.

“It does seem to me that there’s a rousing consensus around single family homes [without an owner or agent on-site] in residential neighborhoods, [that] they should not be rented out,” Councilor Susan Taylor said.

“There are a lot of stakeholders who are not in this room,” said Steve Marino, who lives on Spring Street. “We work here, we work in our nursing homes, we get you coffee, work at the hotels. No one’s talking about them. They’re the ones who can’t find a long-term rental.”

Taylor said, “The more we allow short-term rentals, the more it impacts property values, the more we don’t have full-time residents.”

State Rep. Lauren Carson recommended creating a task force between the City Council and the State Legislature, suggesting that two councilors and two legislators meet for up to a year to find a way forward for the city. “We need a broader vision of housing in Newport,” she said.

Enforcing regulations for short-term rentals is also an issue. Currently, it falls to Newport residents to report problem rentals and code violations, Scott said.

“That requires enforcement by the neighbors, unfortunately,” he said.

“Does the council want to focus on just regulating [short-term rentals] or using regulations to shape the neighborhoods, to shape the city?” Bova asked.

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