NORTH ADAMS — Long-discussed city regulations on short-term rentals like Airbnbs are closer to being finalized. The Council voted 6-2 on Tuesday night to pass two short-term rental ordinances. They will need a second round of votes to become final.
The backstory: Already late last year, the body took an initial vote on a short-term rental ordinance, but then the city solicitor reviewed the proposal and suggested breaking it into two separate ordinances, said Councilor Wayne Wilkinson, chair of the General Government Committee, which discussed the issue last week.
Wording in the two ordinances did not change from the singular proposal councilors approved in an initial vote last year, Wilkinson said Tuesday night.
What the proposals would do: Among other rules, the ordinances require that short-term rentals to be registered with the city, get annual inspections and post emergency-related information in the rental. They spell out which zones of the city will allow certain types of rentals “by right,” and where a special permit would be needed, and they require someone in the area to be responsible for the rental.
Why it was split it into two ordinances: Now, what was once a single proposed ordinance is split into two — part of it under the city’s building code and part under the zoning code. “This was basically done because the city solicitor noticed there was one little flaw,” Wilkinson said. “Somebody that has been doing short-term rentals for the last five years … could say they were grandfathered in ... so they don’t have to comply with the law.” When asked after the meeting why, he said it was his understanding that zoning rules have certain rules about grandfathering.
Putting parts of the proposal under the building code instead of all of it under the zoning code will make it easier for the City Council to make changes in the future because zoning changes require a Planning Board hearing, Council President Lisa Blackmer said.
No votes: Marie Harpin and Jennifer Barbeau, voted no on both proposed ordinances. Harpin said she voted against the ordinances because she thought they were confusing.
“I voted no because I believe it should have returned to the Planning Board,” Barbeau said in a message to The Eagle. In early December, the Planning Board voted to approve the short-term rental ordinance before the council approved it, but the proposal to split the ordinance into two separate pieces did not go before the board.
What’s next: The ordinances will need second and final votes. Even if passed, rules would not immediately go into effect, said Councilor Keith Bona. City Hall staff will have to set fees for the rental inspections and the rates will need council approval.