Proposed short-term rental regulations back before Hudson Council Jan. 26

Licensing process eyed; new components include public comment period, fire inspection requirement

Phil Keren
Kent Weeklies
A large party at this home on Windsor Road in Hudson in October 2020 generated several police reports and prompted discussions of enacting regulations on short-term rental properties such as Airbnbs.

HUDSON — City council on Jan. 26 will discuss revisions to proposed legislation that would regulate short-term residential rental properties.

The city does not currently regulate short-term rentals such as Airbnbs and VRBOs.  Potentially regulating such properties became a discussion item after many residents complained about a party in October 2020 at a home on Windsor Road that was being used as a short-term rental. The party was attended by hundreds of people and generated several police reports.

After the administration presented revised short-term rental regulations on Tuesday, council postponed action on the legislation until Feb. 2.

Legislators are planning to discuss the amended proposal at their workshop meeting at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 26.

Under the proposal before council, a short-term rental operator would go through a licensing process where they would apply for a permit to operate. The permit would have provisions that must be met.

The changes to the short-term rental proposal that were introduced Tuesday night include: a establishing a 14-day public comment period before a permit is issued; the maximum number of occupants would be two per bedroom plus three other people; a short-term rental property must have an annual fire department inspection before a permit is issued or renewed; and the permit must be renewed every year.

Council member Hal DeSaussure (at-large) said he was "very uncomfortable" voting on the proposal when the public had not yet seen the potential revisions.

In agreement, Council member Skylar Sutton (Ward 3) noted it "doesn't sit well with me that we would pass something that hasn't gone through a workshop."

City Manager Jane Howington added she had heard from "quite a few" council members who said they wanted to have a discussion on the changes before voting.

Under the proposed regulations, the penalty for a first offense is revoking the permit for six months. Council member Nicole Kowalski (at-large) said she thought that punishment "might seem a little extreme" for an offense such as having too many vehicles parked in the driveway.

"The suggestion I had made was a fine or revocation of the permit," said Kowalski Tuesday. "And that [penalty] would be at the discretion of whoever is issuing the permit."

She noted that if such a penalty system creates legal complications, "[it's] not necessary, but it's a thought."

Maintaining "definite penalties" on infractions was something City Solicitor Matt Vazzana said he would like to do, but added the administration can examine creating a "fourth category for first-time offenders and we can explore …tying it to lesser infractions."

Sutton said a resident suggested to him the legislation could include a step where the operator has a short time frame to correct the problem before they would face a formal penalty.

Council member Kate Schlademan (Ward 1) said she and her colleagues should examine how they would "bring in all the [short-term rental operators] that are already operating and doing it within the guidelines that we're setting, they're in complete compliance, so that they're not losing revenues and having to cancel bookings that they may already have."

Bed and breakfast operations would be exempt from the proposed regulations, according to Community Development Director Greg Hannan. The city already has a separate set of regulations addressing bed and breakfasts.

Council on Tuesday also postponed action on legislation that would impose a six-month temporary moratorium on the operation of short-term residential real estate rentals (less than 30 days).That proposal will return to council's legislative agenda on Feb. 2.

Vazzana previously said implementing a moratorium on short-term rentals was proposed so officials would have time to craft the regulations they're working on.

Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at pkeren@thebeaconjournal.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.