Special Town Meeting: Fairlee voters support short-term rental ordinance

By LIZ SAUCHELLI

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 02-26-2024 8:00 PM

Modified: 02-27-2024 10:54 AM


FAIRLEE — Residents voted to uphold a new short-term rental ordinance during a special Town Meeting Saturday.

The ordinance is now officially in effect. That means short-term rental owners who own properties that they rent out for stays fewer than 32 days must begin applying for permits and get approval from the town’s Development Review Board.

Among the ordinance’s requirements are on-site parking for all short-term rental guests and a fire inspection. Properties are also limited to two guests per bedroom, according to the town’s bylaws.

One of the reasons for the ordinance was to protect the community’s lakes and there have been concerns about overwhelmed septic systems impacting water quality.

“We’ll sit with this (ordinance) and see how it performs, then the Selectboard can make some changes if it’s really not working how they envisioned,” Fairlee Town Administrator Ryan Lockwood said in a Monday phone interview.

The tally of the paper ballot vote, which asked residents if they wanted to discard the ordinance, was 58 against and 34 in favor, according to election results posted on Fairlee’s website.

There are currently 754 people on Fairlee’s voter checklist, putting turnout at 12%.

Town Clerk Georgette Wolf-Ludwig said in a phone interview that the attendance was comparable to regular Town Meetings, including last year’s where 94 people checked in.

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“We had good attendance,” she said. “I was really quite pleased.”

The Selectboard originally approved the ordinance in November after a town-wide vote in July to adopt land-use bylaws, which included a section on short-term rentals.

The ordinance, Fairlee officials said, gives the town the ability to better enforce the bylaws.

Shortly after the ordinance passed, resident David Adams collected signatures on a petition to force a special Town Meeting. While Adams does not have a short-term rental at this time, he expressed concerns that the Selectboard passed the ordinance without enough input from residents.

During Saturday’s meeting, which lasted around 90 minutes, a lot of the conversation focused on the differences between bylaws and ordinances, Lockwood said.

“There were some good discussions,” he said. “I think it cleared some things up for folks.”

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.

CORRECTION: Fairlee residents voted 5 8 against and 34 in favor of a petitioned article to overturn a short-term rental ordinance, according to election results posted on Fairlee’s website. The vote total for those who wanted to overturn the ordinance was incorrect in a previous version of this story.