SB 249 Hearing Draws Valley Crowd | Local News
CONCORD — The Mount Washington Valley was a major part of the discussion at a legislative hearing Tuesday on a bill that would ban cities from banning short-term rentals but give them more regulatory powers than before.
State Senator Harold French (R-Canterbury) proposes the bill, SB 249
Other members of the committee are Vice Chairman William Gannon (R-Sandown), Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro), Donna Soucy (D-Manchester) and Kevin Cavanaugh (D-Manchester). The hearing was streamed live on YouTube. State Senator Bradley represents towns in Carroll County, including Conway.
Valley speakers included Conway Selectman Carl Thibodeau, Mount Washington Valley Association for Responsible Vacation Rentals, David Cavanaugh, North Conway resident Chris Vachon, former Conway Short Term Rental Committee member , Tom Reed, and past and current presidents of the White Mountain Board of Realtors, Paul. Mayer and Greydon Turner, respectively.
Thibodeau, speaking as a private citizen, came to the hearing to ask that the provisions on personal security be strengthened and that the cities. He said there had been documented instances where around two dozen people crammed into a three-bedroom house.
“The last thing anyone wants to see is having a fire in one of these places and everyone stands up and says, ‘Where’s the exit?'” Thibodeau said. “It’s going to be a disaster, and these things need to be handled more adequately.”
Thibodeau also asked the committee to ensure municipalities can recoup the cost of monitoring and enforcing short-term rents. He added that the STRs interfered with the quiet enjoyment of neighbors.
He presented the committee with regulations that the Breeders hoped to pass, but were rejected by voters who refused to allow STRs to become licensed and regulated, which Breeders took to mean that voters wanted to ban them.
Gannon said Conway’s proposed regulations seem “finicky” when it comes to things like how many cars can be parked in a driveway.
Cavanaugh, a North Conway landlord, said he and his association support reasonable regulation and that short-term rentals have been around for decades.
“Before our time, towns like Conway were built on vacationers,” he said, adding that at one time rentals were advertised in the Boston Globe and are now on sites like Airbnb. amended.”
He said STR only consumes about 5% of the housing stock in Conway and does not impact the number of affordable housing units in town. He also said that most houses used for STRs would not be affordable.
Cavanaugh also said that if STRs were banned it would eliminate 30% of the city’s tourist economy. He said SB 249 would help ensure a “thriving tourism economy for years to come”.
Elsewhere in the hearing, Bradley said the STRS brings in at least $20 million a year in Meals and Rooms Tax revenue.
Attorney Nathan Fennessy, who represents the Mount Washington Valley Association of Responsible Vacation Rentals, said the association supports the bill.
“The problem and I think we heard a bit from the Conway Select Board Member is that some of these cities want to treat your second home differently than a residential single-family home next door,” he said.
Mayer, of Bartlett, said he owned a short-term rental unit and in 2020 he donated the use of his unit to Starting Point, which helps victims of domestic violence.
“These aren’t just used for party houses,” Mayer said.
North Conway realtors Krista Karnan and Carrie Erickson both spoke in favor of the bill, saying it protects homeowners’ rights and allows cities to protect homeowners as well.
“I think at the end of the day we have to make everyone happy,” Erickson said. “We need to make short-term tenants happy. We need to make residents happy too, if we can strike a balance. I’m in.”
Vachon said he is a North Conway resident who supports SB 249 because the bill could be a settlement “everyone could live with.”
Reed and Turner were the final two speakers on Tuesday. Reed explained that he moved to North Conway in 2014 and thought he could relax. “I just figured my life would be mowing the lawn while going skiing,” Reed said. “The next thing I know is that I have an animal shelter in my backyard.”
Reed argued that zoning should be left to the municipalities that can best address these issues.
“I am one of thousands of people affected in the town of Conway who have no economic interest in the outcome of this,” Reed said. “The only thing we care about is his quiet life and the integrity of our zoning ordinance.”
Turner thanked the committee for their work on the bill.
“I think cities need to have the ability to regulate the needs of the city,” Turner said.
The hearing was adjourned after Turner’s speech.
Ultimately, the committee will decide whether to recommend the bill to the full Senate or to continue studying it.
Bradley told The Sun the decision could be made in mid-March or sooner.
Bradley found the contribution “helpful” because he heard from people on all sides of the bill.