April 11 UPDATE: At last night’s Planning Board meeting, the Board agreed to continue working on the bylaw and NOT bring it to the Town Meeting in May.
Meanwhile, below is a summary on the bylaw proposal currently drafted — this is still in development:
The purposes of the proposed bylaw:
The bylaw starts by outlining the policy goals — the “purpose” — of the proposed bylaw, which is to:
- Codify the activity of Short-Term Rentals in Lenox;
- Balance community goals to protect the safety of guests and neighbors;
- Maintain the character and livability of residential neighborhoods;
- Sustain the supply and affordability of residential housing;
- Help residents share in the economic opportunities presented by our tourist economy;
- And, introduce greater regulatory fairness among different types of commercial lodging.
The proposed bylaw:
- You can read the bylaw proposal here >> Read the draft bylaw here
Key elements of the proposed bylaw:
- There are three types of Short-Term Rentals proposed in the bylaw:
- Short-Term Rental, Guest Rooms
- Short-Term Rental, Entire Dwelling
- Short-Term Rental, Accessory Dwelling unit (such as guest cottages or attached apartments)
- All Short-Term Rentals must be the host’s legal residence: All Hosts shall be the dwelling’s legal resident or in the case of Accessory Dwelling Units, the legal owner of the principal dwelling.
- Special permit required for Entire Dwellings: Short-Term Rentals of entire homes will require a Special Permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
- 60 days per year allowed — The number of Short-Term Rentals allowed will be capped at 60 days per calendar year.
- Registration and inspections will be required.
- There are other requirements: See the bylaw for all the proposed details — Short-Term Rental of Private Homes Bylaw_Draft_3_30_18
- Note, the bylaw does not discuss the collection of rooms taxes. The state is working on legislation that will enable municipalities to collect rooms taxes on short-term rentals. The House has already passed a bill. The Senate is expected to vote on their version on Wednesday, April 4. Once enacted, the Board of Selectmen can then take steps to collect these taxes.
What was the original goal of the Short-Term Rentals subcommittee?
Lenox’s economy derives much of its strength from the tourism industry — and nearly one in three Americans stayed in a Short-Term Rental in 2015.
At the same time, Lenox derives much of its vitality from year-round residents, and it’s likely that residents and visitors alike don’t want the town to lose its unique character.
Gathering input from citizens throughout Lenox, our aim is to assess both the opportunities and concerns presented by Short-Term Rentals. Then, together as a community, we can decide how they will fit into our long-term vision for our town.
To ensure we get good cross-section of views from across Lenox, this project is being led by team representing several Town groups, including the Planning Board, the Select Board, the Finance Committee, the Affordable Housing Committee.
How many Short-Term Rentals are operating in Lenox right now?
From our Host Compliance dashboard on January 29, 2018:
We have engaged with a company, Host Compliance, that monitors Short-Term Rental listings across 50″ websites.
- On Jan. 29, Host Compliance indicated we have 146 unique properties that fit the STR definition, and a total of 194 actual listings. We believe the “171” number is higher because (1) a number of inns and bed & breakfasts also use these websites to advertise rooms they have available, and (2) some homeowners rent multiple bedrooms.
- Host Compliance also shows us other info, such as how many Short-Term Rentals are of entire homes (70%) vs. partial homes (23%).
- And we recently began receiving data on number of nights rented. Host Compliance explains that to obtain this particular info, “We use a combination of data….we don’t get booking data, but we get calendar availability data. We then look at reviews … and take into account minimum nights stay …. and know that if we have a certain number of reviews, it typically means that there were X stays in that rental unit.”
What about collecting taxes on these rentals?
That will require enabling legislation from the State. Right now, there are two bills that would make tax collection possible. We are told this legislation may pass in 2018 and are monitoring the situation.
Importantly, this legislation also will likely provide additional framework for any new Lenox bylaws.
How else can I found out about issues surrounding Short-Term Rentals?
There is a lot of news coverage around the issues. We typically use google to search keywords “short term rentals” or particular hosting platforms such as “airbnb” “homeaway” “flipkey” etc. and then go to the NEWS tab to research news and how other communities are dealing with the issues.
Locally, the Berkshire Eagle, Berkshire Record and Berkshire Edge newspapers have been actively writing about our meetings, forums and other steps in the process