BURLINGTON - People looking for short-term rentals in Burlington’s residential neighborhoods will have to look elsewhere.

This past September, Town Meeting passed a zoning bylaw article effectively amending and creating a new definition for short-term rentals in Burlington.

The approved article is as follows:

2.19.1.0.2 Short-Term Rental

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.”

Airbnb recently touched base with town officials, seeking a formal letter from the chief elected bodies of communities (Select Board) in order for them to put any notification in their system that Airbnb and the town of Burlington prohibits short-term rentals.

“Airbnb will be able to raise awareness because of this,” remarked a member of Town Counsel during the Select Board meeting. “This is a notice to Airbnb so they can notify their owners not to advertise. Airbnb does not have to do this, but they do it in other communities because it allows them to get ahead of it.”

The Select Board was pleased about Airbnb’s initiative to further formalize the prohibition.

“This is our best option,” admitted Select Board member Joseph Morandi. “We do not have the resources to go check on houses to make sure the prohibition is upheld.”

Select Board Vice Chair Nichola Priest’s comments reflected his colleagues, avowing “it is time to create an enforcement officer position in the Building Inspector’s Office.”

Select Board member Robert Hogan advised, “These prohibitions are fine, but people will always try to find a way around it.”

Since this matter was officially listed as a “discussion item” on the Select Board’s agenda, it was recommended that it be continued to the board’s next meeting on Nov. 8, where it will be listed as an “Approval Item.”

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