Newport This Week

Middletown Council’s Short-Term Rental Directive Stymies Planning Board

The Middletown Planning Board may advise the town to seek outside expertise on how to deal with short-term rentals after a presentation on May 10 left them with more questions than answers.

On the agenda was a review and discussion on information compiled by the planning department staff regarding regulatory approaches for short-term rentals and their impact on housing stock for year-round residents. The Town Council directive was for the board to research other communities affected by short-term rentals, leading to some sort of increased regulation or other actions. Members John Ciummo and Leon Amarant recused themselves, presumably because of a conflict of interest.

But shortly into a presentation by the town’s principal planner, Anita Guo, board members interrupted, stating that the information was not complete. They did not allow Guo to finish her presentation.

Board member Arthur Weber asked for a “more complete study,” and said the board was not able to give “full recommendations” to the Town Council because the information is “incomplete.”

“There’s something missing here,” said Chair Paul Croce.

He labeled some of the information “inaccurate,” but added he didn’t know “if the inaccuracies are significant.”

Weber said they would send “whatever data we have up there [to the Town Council].”

“This is beyond our purview,” he said. “If somebody from the outside, who knows what is going on, should study this, instead of a piece here or a piece there, [maybe the town should hire them].”

Croce suggested drafting a memo and forwarding the discussion to the Town Council. “There will be no recommendations tonight,” he said.

Guo’s presentation revealed that Rhode Island has more than 3,000 registered short-term rentals, and Middletown is second in the state with nearly 350, or 11 percent. Newport, by comparison has 273, fourth in the state, while Narragansett is first with 657, or 21 percent.

55 percent of Middletown’s short-term rentals are owned by residents; 45 percent are not. Owner occupied short-term rentals stand at 28 percent; absentee ownership is at an eye-opening 72 percent of 387 total units.

“The data shows we are maxed out,” said Guo.

Guo said there are 280 units not available for year-round use by residents. Residency is determined by the location of property associated with the rental use on tax assessor record on that property, she added.

“That is only one element,” Weber said, noting the impact on taxes, residency, education, finance, etc. “I really don’t know what the town is looking for. Who is going to study that and come up with some sort of conclusion? Whether we like it or not, short-term rentals are alive and well here. We need a rational and unemotional approach on how to manage short-term rentals. They are not going away.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.