Freedom—January 11, 2022—In something of a victory for the town’s short-term rental owners, the Freedom Planning Board last Thursday voted to modify their proposed STR ordinance to allow renting for up to 90 days a year rather than 45 as they has been discussing previously.
The following day, the board posted to townoffreedom.net its latest draft ordinance. Because changes were made to the draft, it will be subject of a public hearing set for Jan. 20 at 7 p.m. at the Freedom Town Hall.
Residents will vote March 8 on the proposed ordinance.
The planning board consists of Anne Cunningham (chair), William Elliott, Pamela Keith, Carol McIntire, Paul Olzerowicz, Jeffrey Towle, alternate Elizabeth Earle, alternate Jeff Nicoll and selectmen’s representative Leslie R. Babb. If passed, the ordinance would allow STRs by special use permit. They would be permitted in all districts.
Cunningham has been a proponent of the 45-day rental limit. She and Nicoll studied the economics of STRs and found that would be enough days to generate income to cover most property’s taxes three times over but not make homes overly attractive to investors.
Babb brought up 90 days last month and advocated for it again Thursday.
“It’s a good compromise between going 45 and going wide open,” said Babb adding that owners he spoke with said 90 days would allow them to keep their properties.
Cunningham said she was willing to support 90 days in the spirit of compromise. She added she has been concerned that the proposed regulations might not be supported by voters. “I will support 90 days in the hope that other people that come from their side and come somewhere in the middle,” said Nicoll said Freedom has at least 41 STRs and that is predicted to increase by 7 percent per quarter. He wanted to stick with 45 days.
“I feel like the trend will prevail and there will be investors coming into the town buying up properties. It’s happened. I had friends in Massachusetts, and they bought property in North Conway and Conway just for that reason. So I mean, I already know personally that it’s happening.And then the data shows that it is happening,” he said.
He asked if Freedom was taken over by STRs who would be left to volunteer and what will happen to neighborhoods.
Several short-term rental supporters said cutting the number of days to 45 could make it more difficult to generate enough money to make home repairs.
“I think somebody who might want to buy a property just for the sake of making money wouldn’t be confined by 90, but that would really help the owner make sure their porch is fine and pay their mortgage,” said resident Janet Johnson, who owns a rental in Albany with her husband, Don. “I think 90 is a very good compromise,” she said.
STR owner Kyle Clifton said he could support 90 days if existing STRs were grandfathered in, but resident John Krebs said the opposite.
To renew a permit,an owner must sign an affidavit stating compliance with the days and dates rented and a copy of a report showing state rooms and meals tax paid.
Planners voted 5-2 in favor of changing to 90 days. Olzerowicz and Nicoll were in the minority.
The planners also made a number of other changes due to legal concerns that were raised that they were overstepping state law in their previous draft.
They scrapped measures to limit STR density and they also replaced life safety inspection requirement with a requirement to include with the permit application an affidavit with photos showing installed smoke detectors, egress doors and windows.