NEWBURYPORT — After months of collecting mothballs, the issue of short-term rentals is poised to be revisited as a new proposal to regulate them within the city may be headed for City Council chambers soon.

Short-term rental units, such as those found on online services like Airbnb and Vrbo, are prohibited in the city since it has no way to regulate them.

The City Council considered approving zoning amendments that would have allowed short-term rental units in the city, excluding those on Plum Island, last summer. But disagreement over investor-owned properties derailed the council’s plans and short-term rental units remain unallowable until further notice.

The council’s failure to approve the zoning amendment last summer led some residents to complain about their neighbors and the Zoning Board of Appeals slapped a cease-and-desist owner on a Fruit Street homeowner for offering her property as a short-term rental on Airbnb in the fall.

Councilors at large Mark Wright, Bruce Vogel, Afroz Khan and Connie Preston voted against the zoning changes last year, with Vogel saying Thursday the problem was that the new rules were part of a zoning amendment and not a simple zoning ordinance.

“You had all of those rules, with parking, the number of people and whatnot, inside a zoning amendment and that is too cumbersome when you only need six votes to change rules and not the zoning. What we need is a stripped-down zoning ordinance that allows for short-term rentals, like they have in Amesbury. Then you go back and create the rules and let them govern the zoning and they become much more amenable,” he said.

Ward 5 City Councilor Jim McCauley and Ward 3 Councilor Heather Shand co-sponsored last summer’s proposed zoning amendment but said in text messages Thursday that they are not involved in any potential upcoming proposals.

Vogel said he had heard the new proposal would be coming from Ward 1 Councilor Sharif Zeid, who did not return texts and calls for comment Thursday.

Mayor Sean Reardon told The Daily News late last year that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if the issue came before the City Council by either late January or early February, and he expects his office to be “much more involved” in the matter this time around.

“The city has been working on a on a new iteration of what that ordinance could look like,” he said.

Under last year’s proposed regulations, owners of short-term rentals would be required to live in their units for at least 183 days and offer off-street parking as well.

Short-term renters would also be allowed to stay for a maximum of 32 days under last year’s proposed regulations and the properties’ primary use would need to be as a single-family, two-family or a multifamily home.

Chief of Staff Andrew Levine said the administration is looking forward to seeing the City Council bring another version of the short-term rental policy forward but added he also understands the board wants to practice its due diligence as well.

“I know the council is taking its time with this, to make it sure it is vetted with the city solicitor and affected stakeholders and it wants to take the necessary time before beginning the public debate again,” he said.

More than 140 short-term Newburyport rental properties have been registered with the state.

Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Newburyport for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at jsullivan@newburyportnews.com or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.

Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Newburyport for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at jsullivan@newburyportnews.com or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.

Trending Video

Recommended for you