Nelsonville Survey: Airbnb OK

But residents say they want restrictions

Most Nelsonville residents support the use of homes for short-term rentals, such as through Airbnb, but want them regulated, according to a survey unveiled Monday (Nov. 16) by the Village Board.

Conducted from mid-October to mid-November, the survey drew 58 responses from the village’s 270 households, a return of about 20 percent. Five respondents said they offer short-term rentals.

Nelsonville’s current code allows “the letting of rooms” to up to two guests at a time, as long as the owner lives in the house. It prohibits cooking facilities in guest rooms, although an owner can offer breakfast and allow guests access to the kitchen.

Of the 58 respondents, 55 favored restrictions. Of those, 67 percent backed limiting the practice to homeowners, and 64 percent said renting should require a permit and safety inspection.

In addition, 75 percent said owners should be required to remain on the premises or be no more than 30 minutes away; 38 percent would ban the rental of second homes; and 73 percent of respondents would prohibit the purchase of a house to be used exclusively as a short-term rental.

Among the five respondents who operate short-term rentals, one wants “the flexibility to make extra income without any restrictions or village oversight,” while others said they would abide by regulations, Trustee Dove Pedlosky told the board, which met via videoconference.

Respondents who commented in the survey frequently criticized short-term renting. They referred to parking problems, noise, drunken behavior and seeing, every weekend, “a new, random person living on our street [when] we don’t know them or their background.” One wrote of feeling “as if we are living next door to a business in a residential area.”

A former short-term rental owner referred to “worrisome guests,” including those who held “a raucous dance party that went on until the wee hours,” visitors’ use of illicit drugs and other troublesome behavior, contributing to “our decision to no longer host.”

Positive remarks cited the revenue homeowners can earn, the opportunities to meet “many wonderful people,” including guests who become friends or even neighbors, and the advantage of dealing with a loud, short-term occupant compared to a loud, long-term one.

COVID-19 influenced some responses.

One resident appreciated the presence of short-term rentals “when we want our family to stay separate so they can quarantine or until they are tested.” However, another wrote that during the pandemic, owners “should not be allowed to rent to others. Our community can easily become infected.” A third advocated restrictions on all short-term rentals, “if not permanently at least until after COVID-19 has passed.” A resident also linked short-term rentals to more “hikers on the trails and walkers on the streets not wearing masks.”

Village Board members said the survey will help in drafting regulations.

“Nobody can say we’re going ahead on this without doing our homework,” said Mayor Mike Bowman. “In our public meetings, if we have four or five people in the room speak, it’s a lot. So 58 is a pretty large slice of resident households.”

However, “we’re definitely not legislating based on the survey,” said Trustee Chris Winward, who organized it with Pedlosky. For guidance, the board is reviewing laws passed by Beacon and other communities.


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