Responding to ongoing dialogue in town about short-term rentals, the Town Council votes to include money in the proposed Fiscal 2022 budget for a new Zoning Enforcement Officer responsible for short-term rentals in town.
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NEW SHORT-TERM RENTAL OFFICER
ON THE WAY IN MIDDLETOWN
MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (MAY 18, 2021) – The Town of Middletown is looking to add a new full-time Zoning Enforcement Officer dedicated specifically to short-term rentals.
During a meeting Monday night from Town Hall, the Town Council voted to make the position a priority in the proposed Fiscal 2022 budget to address a range of issues.
Town Administrator Shawn J. Brown said while the summer months were typically the busiest with short-term rentals, there would be plenty for the new full-time officer to do out of the town’s Building Department.
Whether it was overseeing the applications and paperwork related to short-term rentals to handling college rentals in the off season, Brown said the Zoning Enforcement Officer would take work off his desk as well as the Building, Police, Public Works, Town Solicitor and other departments.
“Part of this related to the council’s desire that we increase our enforcement over properties involved in the operations of short-term rentals,” Brown said. “There is a tremendous amount of work that’s happening in Town Hall and across the public safety departments to address short-term rentals.”
Council President Paul M. Rodrigues spearheaded the charge to make the job full time, saying the new position would pay for itself.
“There’s a lot of opportunity out there and we’ve had extensive discussions about it,” Rodrigues said. “Every avenue we’ve turned to…everyone seemed to agree on enforcement.”
Over the past decade, but especially the last couple summers, short-term rentals have evolved into one of the hotter local issues in the community.
Some say that short-term rentals add to the diverse fabric of Middletown, generate important business for the community and provide visitors alternative places to stay. Others say short-term rentals generate unnecessary problems as commercial operations in residential zones, causing trash, noise, quality of life and related issues.
Hearing those concerns but making it clear that most short-term rentals weren’t a detriment, council members and staff pledged to step things up this summer.
Toward that end, Brown has been meeting regularly with town staff impacted by short-term rentals to make sure everyone was on the same page. The Town also is in the process of mailing a new easy-to-understand short-term rental guide for landlords, renters and neighbors. To view that document, visit https://mdl.town/ShortTermRentalGuide online.
As part of the proposed $75.9 million budget for Fiscal 2022, the Police Department is asking for support for six Public Safety Interns for the summer. Under that program, the interns would assist police officers with quality-of-life issues across the community, including items related to short-term rentals. Hear Police Chief William Kewer make his case for the interns at https://mdl.town/PoliceStaffing online. Municipal Court fines for those found in violation of town ordinances related to short-term rentals are up to $1,000 a day per offense.
When fully staffed, the building office will now have five employees. The town is currently advertising vacancies in that department at https://mdl.town/Jobs online.
The council also appointed members to the new Short-Term Rental Task Force, a volunteer group charged with studying the issue this summer. Leon Amarant, Ethan Coombs and Debra Fragola were named as members as short-term rental operators, with Michael Cunningham, James Redfearn and Daniel Titus selected as non-owners. Councilwoman Barbara A. VonVillas was picked as the council liaison to the group as a non-voting member.
Rodrigues and others said they were excited about getting the new Zoning Enforcement Officer on board to work with short-term rental operators, renters and the neighbors.
“We’re adding something like this to generate revenue, it’s going to pay for itself and it’s going to enforce the issues and hopefully improve the quality of life for residents that some of the short-term rentals have created,” Rodrigues said. “Not all of them. I’ve walked those neighborhoods with a resident and there’s good ones and…ones that are in violation. I saw it with my own two eyes.
“I think it’s important that we move forward. We cannot continue to just talk about things. We can talk all day long…To me this is one of the top priorities for me to get enforcement in place.”