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Canaan to discuss Airbnbs in historic district

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/17/2021 9:00:09 PM
Modified: 10/17/2021 9:00:11 PM

CANAAN — Canaan’s Historic District Commission is holding a hearing Monday night that is expected to include a broader discussion about whether Airbnbs and other short-term rentals should be allowed to continue to operate in the neighborhood near Canaan Street Lake.

John Bergeron, the chairman of the Historic District Commission, said four properties in the district may need to receive a certificate of approval for a change of use from the commission. The hearing on Monday concerns an application for a home on Canaan Street that was previously a long-term rental but whose new owners want to operate a short-term rental in their basement, Bergeron said.

He and Town Administrator Mike Samson said opinions are split in town over whether the commission can regulate short-term rentals, with some residents concerned about loose dogs and unfamiliar faces from the visitors and others saying the town has no business regulating Airbnbs.

“There are clearly some people in the district who want no part of Airbnbs and there are clearly people who don’t have an Airbnb and want them,” Bergeron said. “There are two camps that are clearly divided, almost like the blue and red world.”

Canaan has no zoning, and at Town Meeting voters rejected an effort to create a zoning ordinance for the historic district, which runs along part of Canaan Street, near Canaan Street Lake.

But Samson said under state law, historic district commissions can regulate uses.

At the same time, he also noted that the neighborhood historically had been home to bed and breakfasts and inns catering to visitors to the lake and other tourists, citing the example of the Lucerne Inn, which is now a new wedding venue.

“It’s kind of hard to argue it’s not a compatible use when it’s been there since the 1800s and has been a hotel with shorter-term occupancy,” Samson said.

He also said property owners who might be denied by the historic commission can appeal 

Laura Smith, who has been renting out a Canaan Street home she co-owns with her son through Airbnb for several years — rates often are $100 a night or $500 a week — said she has never heard a complaint from neighbors. She is one of the property owners notified they need to apply for a change of use.

“My feeling is if I want to Airbnb I should be allowed to Airbnb,” Smith said. “We’ve made many friends with people we have rented to. We have never had problems.”

Monday’s hearing will be held at the Mascoma Community Health Center at 7:15 pm, and masks are required in the building. Residents can also attend remotely, with Zoom instructions at https://tinyurl.com/hdc-agd.

Liz Sauchelli contributed to this report. John Gregg can be reached at jgregg@vnews.com




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