BURLINGTON - People looking for short-term rentals in Burlington’s residential neighborhoods will have to look elsewhere.
The last item on the September Town Meeting warrant saw the body pass a zoning bylaw article amending and creating a new definition for short-term rentals.
The approved article is as follows:
The use of a Residential Unit for residential occupancy by a person or persons for a period of fewer than twenty-eight consecutive calendar days for a fee. A short-term rental may or may not be facilitated through a booking agent. A short-term rental is a property that includes but is not limited to a hotel, motel, lodging house or bed and breakfast establishment, where at least one room or unit is rented out by an operator through the use of advance reservations. A short-term rental includes an apartment, house, cottage, condominium, or other accommodation.
Planning Director Kristin Kassner explained to the hybrid Town Meeting body (the majority of members attended virtually) the purpose of the amendment is to properly define what a short-term rental is in Burlington, and add the definitions to a use table, then prohibit such rentals as a principle use and accessory use.
“The goal of this is to define short-term rentals so we can properly regulate it,” detailed Kassner. “Short-term rentals are being added to the zoning bylaw so we can prohibit them across the board until further notice.”
Short-term rentals have always been problematic in Burlington without any sort of finite definition to the term in the town’s zoning bylaws. More recently, residents have informed the Planning Board that they are not comfortable with such rentals in their neighborhoods, professing it destroys the fabric of their traditional residential neighborhoods.
“There have been issues with large gatherings [unsupervised parties] in Burlington, with some taking place at short-term rental homes that have no oversight,” Kassner mentioned. “A ‘yes’ vote on this article defines and prohibits short-term rental uses in Burlington, which is a prohibition that can be revisited in the future.”
She detailed a “no” vote keeps the situation as “status-quo” resulting in short-term rentals remaining “undefined” and “largely unregulated” under the town’s zoning accommodations.
Planning Board Chair Barbara L’Heuruex outlined the reason why the planners unanimously supported the article as proposed, citing the concerns of residents living in neighborhoods that feel vulnerable to the short-term rental culture.
“A number of people in certain neighborhoods are uncomfortable with having a home in their neighborhood not owned or occupied that has frequent changeover and different people moving in and out every week,” expressed L’Heureux. “With these residents not knowing who is staying in these homes, they feel unsafe in their own neighborhood. This results in the potential of not having the type of residential neighborhoods we have come to know and love in Burlington.”
Some Town Meeting members noted concern about having a prohibition on anything in town, but they were pacified in hearing Planning Director Kassner’s comments about the prohibition potentially being revisited in the future, depending on the circumstances. This warrant article gives the town a clear definition for short-term rentals in Burlington, so people who do own a home are not able to able rent it out for a month or less to parties unfamiliar to homeowners in the neighborhoods of Burlington.
Town Meeting passed the article by a 79-12 vote, a two-thirds majority. Town Meeting won’t convene again until January.