Burlington Council Considers New Short-Term Rental Regulations | City | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Burlington Council Considers New Short-Term Rental Regulations


Published April 12, 2022 at 12:01 a.m.
Updated May 24, 2022 at 7:08 p.m.

Councilor Sarah Carpenter (D-Ward 4) - COURTNEY LAMDIN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Courtney Lamdin ©️ Seven Days
  • Councilor Sarah Carpenter (D-Ward 4)
Less than a month after failing to override a mayoral veto of short-term rental regulations, Burlington city councilors voted on Monday to have a committee study a new set of proposed rules.

The council's Ordinance Committee will review the proposal and report back to the full body by June 1. The 7-4 vote was the first substantial action taken by the new council, whose members were sworn in last week.

Democrat Joan Shannon (South District) joined Progressive councilors Gene Bergman (Ward 2), Jack Hanson (East District) and Ali House (Ward 8) in voting no; Councilor Ali Dieng (I-Ward 7) was absent for the vote.

"I feel pretty strongly that this is a good compromise that allows owners to use their property as they have been and gives them some possibility for future investment while not opening up short-term rentals entirely," said Councilor Sarah Carpenter (D-Ward 4), who introduced the proposal.
The previous set of regulations sought to ban short-term rentals anywhere but in a host’s permanent residence, with few exceptions. Proponents had argued that short-term rentals, usually found on sites such as Airbnb and Vrbo, were cannibalizing the city’s permanent housing supply. But in issuing his veto last month, Weinberger said the regulations were too restrictive and could actually exacerbate the city’s housing crisis.

The latest version seems to address the mayor’s concerns. The regulations would permit one short-term rental in accessory dwelling units, duplexes and buildings with up to four units — all of which weren’t allowed under the previous proposal. Hosts would also be able to short-term rent their entire home or a room in their home, as long as it's their primary residence.

Like the previous proposal, the new version would allow hosts to rent out seasonal homes on a short-term basis. And if a host owns a multi-unit building with one "affordable" long-term rental, they'd be able to short-term rent one unit in the same building without having to live on-site.
Councilor Bergman said he understands that property owners often have to rent out units, either on a short- or long-term basis, to pay their own bills. But he said he's heard from renters who can't find a place to live. He fears that the new regulations would worsen that problem.

If the regulations pass, Bergman and other councilors want hosts to pay a registration fee into the Housing Trust Fund, which supports affordable housing projects. Such language isn't in the draft but could be added when the committee considers it.

"The way I look at the proposal now is that I think it opens things up much too much," he said. "If we lose housing without replacement or any payment into the Housing Trust Fund, we’re just compounding a problem that is horrific. I don't use that as hyperbole."

Councilor Zoraya Hightower (P-Ward 1) supported the previous set of regulations and said she was disappointed that the council was still debating the issue. But she said she looks forward to hashing out the details with fellow members of the Ordinance Committee: Councilor Hanson and newly elected Councilor Ben Traverse (D-Ward 5), the committee chair.

Later in the meeting, councilors unanimously passed a resolution urging Vermont lawmakers to retain fare-free bus service.

Green Mountain Transit buses has offered free rides since the pandemic began, and a proposal to renew the service for another year is in the state's transportation bill, H.736.

Passing the bill would also prevent GMT from limiting service on two routes that serve Burlington: the No. 6, which runs between downtown and Shelburne, and the No. 7, which runs along North Avenue. Four trips on GMT’s Montpelier LINK Express are also on the chopping block.

The resolution says that free rides can increase ridership, which would help reduce carbon emissions and get the city closer to its goal of achieving net-zero energy use by 2030. The measure also invites legislators, GMT management and other officials to the council's April 25 meeting "to discuss how to avoid service reductions and how to best support and improve transit in Burlington."

Also on Monday, city officials said that construction on the Champlain Parkway could begin in July. That would mark a major milestone after decades of permitting hurdles and public opposition.

First envisioned as a four-lane highway in the 1960s, the modern Champlain Parkway proposal is a low-speed roadway meant to improve traffic flow between the city’s South End and downtown. The 2.8-mile road would begin at the Interstate 189 interchange on Shelburne Road, run north from Home to Lakeside avenues, then jog east onto Pine Street, where it would extend up to Main.
The project would be built in two phases, with the first stretch — between Home Avenue and Kilburn Street — beginning this summer and ending in October 2024. The entire project could be complete in 2027.

Councilors will vote on a proposed $41 million construction contract later this month. The cost, covered mostly by federal funds, came in nearly $14.5 million higher than initial estimates, likely due to inflation and the war in Ukraine, which has driven up energy costs, officials said.

Meantime, the grassroots Pine Street Coalition, which opposes the project design, has vowed to keep fighting it in court. Data show that the parkway would increase traffic in the racially diverse King/Maple neighborhood while reducing traffic in more affluent, whiter neighborhoods. After studying the issue, however, federal officials concluded that coordinated traffic signals would mitigate “any adverse effects” on the neighborhood.

The city has also planned another project to reduce parkway traffic. The Railyard Enterprise Project would create a connector road between Pine and Battery streets on land owned by Vermont Rail System, bypassing the King/Maple neighborhood. Building that project before finishing the parkway, as the city plans to do, would reduce traffic in the King/Maple area by nearly 60 percent, the city says.

The coalition still has an active lawsuit seeking to stop the parkway and build what it calls the "Champlain RIGHTway." The design features 0.75 fewer miles of new roadway and uses roundabouts instead of traffic lights, among other changes.