North Adams Taking Up Short-Term Rental Regs

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The General Government Committee is recommending a revamped short-term rental ordinance that will target units being run primarily as a business.
It won't really affect homeowners who want to rent out a room or two in their primary residences or in a building that they live in, like a duplex. But it will require property owners who do not live on the same property or who live in a building with more than five units to have a permit.
"The people that want to run it as a business, we're going to treat you as a business so you're gonna have to get a special permit," said Chair Wayne Wilkinson said at Monday's meeting. "You're going have to do what all businesses and commercial properties in North Adams have to do."
This latest iteration of the draft ordinance was hammered out by an ad hoc group consisting of Wilkinson, Mayor Jennifer Macksey, Building Inspector William Meranti and Community Development Director Michael Nuvallie, with input from consultant Zachary Feury, who had developed the original ordinance while working for the city.  
"This is a really good document and I support it 100 percent," said Wilkinson, who had added he's mostly attended the group's meetings to "keep an eye on things" for General Government. 
The ordinance had first been raised by Councilor Keith Bona over safety concerns — rooms were being rented with no assurance they could pass inspection. Other councilors also thought any ordinance should address the proliferation of outside investors buying up buildings for short-term rentals and reducing long-term housing stock.
Several attempts to advance an ordinance failed, largely over the inspection requirements and zoning.
"Mr. Meranti indicated that it did not really fall in line with [Massachusetts] building code. Whatever was proposed, he couldn't enforce and since he couldn't enforce it, we couldn't make an agreement on it," Wilkinson said of the original draft. "Why bother putting in an ordinance you can't enforce?"
The new draft proposal is much shorter and clearer, a point made by both committee member Ashley Shade and Councilor Bryan Sapienza, who attended the meeting. 
The regulation provides for all units in single or two-family homes to comply with the general building code for homes and condominiums and all operators to register with the city inspector and for homeowners to provide an affidavit that this is their legal address. 
Short-term rentals in owner-occupied or -adjacent buildings would be allowed by right.
Professionally managed units (i.e. not owner occupied or adjacent) would be allowed by right in business and industrial districts and by special permit in residential zones. 
The ordinance relates to rentals of less than 30 days.
Fees will be determined at a later date as the city is currently reviewing its fee structure. 
Wilkinson noted that if someone has a building that requires a sprinkler system, the same rule would apply if it's being used for short-term rentals. 
"I think what's been proposed is really good but there are some things that are still missing that I'd actually like to address later on," said Shade. "One of the things missing is having a limit on how many properties one person or entity can run at one time. 
"We have a housing crisis here in North Adams. We are short a lot of housing and to have our properties being converted from long-term housing into businesses only adds to the deficit of our housing."
Wilkinson and Sapienza agreed but Wilkinson said the city first has to get a handle on how many units are being used as short-term rentals. 
"We talked about a limit. We think there should be a limit. You just don't want to pick an arbitrary number out of the sky and say, OK," Wilkinson said. 
Once the units are registered, then the city can go back and amend the ordinance. 
"I would suggest instead of an actual number is to create a percentage based on the number of total rental units we have in the city, both short-term and long-term rental units," said Sapienza.
Shade pointed out that those operating short-term rentals as a business were getting a tax advantage because they fell under the residential rather than commercial rate. That was giving them a 20 percent savings in taxes alone, she said. 
"I think the bottom line is that this is a starting point when it comes to short-term rentals. And that's a really solid starting point. There's a lot of things we'll still want to address," she said. "It's not a done issue. But it's a good starting point to start understanding what's happening in our city."
Shade and Wilkinson voted to recommend the ordinance to the full council; member Peter Oleskiewicz was absent. The ordinance is on the City Council agenda for Tuesday. 
"I applaud you for trying to come up with this and I think we've come up with an equitable solution, hopefully for everybody involved," said Sapienza. "We're pretty much trying to regulate an unregulated industry."

North Adams Draft Short-Term Rental Ordinance by on Scribd

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North Adams Restaurant Has to Reapply for Alcohol License

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Desperados restaurant won't be able to serve alcohol until it gets a new license under its new ownership. 
Former owner Peter Oleskiewicz and new manager Chris Bonnivier had been scheduled to discuss the transition situation with the License Commission on Tuesday but Commissioner Rosemari Dickinson informed her colleagues that the restaurant's license had been turned in. 
"Mr. Oleskiewicz hand-walked his license to surrender to us yesterday," Dickinson said at Tuesday's meeting. "So the license is no longer. He voluntarily surrendered it."
Since the property no longer has a valid license, the alcohol cannot even be stored at 23 Eagle St., she said, because the pouring license is no longer in effect. The alcohol can be sold to other license holders, with permission of the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, or back to the distributor. 
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