"The Hill" neighborhood in Great Barrington, where, some residents say, short-term rentals are proliferating. Town officials voted Monday on a proposed bylaw that would limit Airbnb-style rentals to 90 days per year.

GREAT BARRINGTON — Unless town voters reshape it or nix it altogether in the near future, a newly written bylaw says residents can’t rent out their house for more than 90 days in a year unless they are living in it.

While the Select Board at its Monday meeting also made other tweaks to a proposed short-term rental bylaw, it voted 3-1 for a 90-day cap on Airbnb-style renting. The state Ethics Commission forced board member Eric Gabriel to recuse himself from the debate because it saw the possibility of a future conflict of interest with his owning a number of long-term rental properties, Gabriel told The Eagle.

The board will continue to work through remaining sections of the bylaw at its next meeting, and the public will have another chance to speak. The board still can go back and make changes.

Voters will have the final say at annual town meeting in June.

Residents who spoke in favor of the restrictions said they worry about corporate investors changing the economics in town, and the communal integrity of neighborhoods.

Those who spoke against the bylaw said it would keep people of modest means from earning rental income, and that it would treat every property owner the same — whether they are an investor or a family, or whether the property is in the business, industrial or residential zones.

Great Barrington Select Board

Great Barrington Select Board members listen to the public speak about short-term rental regulations.

Two board members pushing the regulation, and two residents who spoke in favor, live in what is known as “The Hill,” a neighborhood west of Main Street where, some residents say, short-term rentals are proliferating.

Officials said the bylaw could help ease a housing and long-term renting crunch, as well as skyrocketing real estate prices. Select Board Vice Chair Leigh Davis, who is driving the proposal, has said she wants to deter investors from snapping up housing stock. She also has said the bylaw would help maintain community cohesion in neighborhoods.

Some opponents see this as government overreach affecting personal finances in what still is a rural economy for many — and one savaged by a pandemic.

Select Board member Ed Abrahams, who lives on Pleasant Street, said the bylaw, as written, would hurt people.

“It’s overkill, and it can have an awful lot of unintended consequences,” he said. “[The board] got a letter today from a veteran who, after six deployments, moved back here and can’t afford to keep the house when he goes elsewhere without [renting].”

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He said if the 90-day cap is solely to keep out business entities, it is too broad.

“If limiting corporate interests is what we’re trying to do, let’s limit corporate interests and not punish Great Barrington homeowners and micromanage what they can do with their homes,” Abrahams said.

He pointed to Stockbridge’s bylaw, which excludes corporations from renting property. He also suggested limiting it to “corporations or individuals who own X number of units.”

Board member Garfield Reed, who, like Davis, lives on The Hill, argued that the intent isn’t to hurt anyone.

“I don’t think this is to stop people from making money; just limiting how it’s done and having some strategy to how it’s done,” he said. “It’s just trying to level the playing field.”

Main Street resident James Manning said he thinks the board should “consider the community over any individual.” He worries that corporate real estate aggregators, like Marriot Homes, could devour property.

James Garzon, of North Plain Road, said his research shows 8 percent of property owners are limited liability companies, making the broad restrictions on the rest “a little Draconian.” He also didn’t want to see the town lose its 6 percent local tax from the rentals.

Sharon Gregory, who lives on The Hill, said she agrees that the regulations should balance the varying needs of the community. But, she said she has seen people buying up houses just to make money.

“It’s happening a lot on The Hill,” she said.

Michelle Loubert, of Division Street, said she and her husband want to travel when they retire. This bylaw wouldn’t allow them to rent the house in the short term so they still could live in it part of the year. She said it is a misnomer to say the bylaw is for the greater good.

“I ask [the board] to consider all the constituents … because sometimes when promoting the greater good, people in the minority are harmed,” Loubert said.

Dan Ruderman, who lives on The Hill, said there are lots of restrictions in neighborhoods, and the aim is to keep the “community feeling intact.”

“I can’t open up a machine shop in my house, right?” he said. “I can’t open up a deli here in the house … think about houses as homes, not as hotels.”

In January, the board voted to make it a general bylaw, rather than a zoning bylaw. A zoning bylaw would require a supermajority two-thirds vote at annual town meeting.

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or 413-329-6871.