January 30, 2024 7:16 pm
• Last Updated: January 30, 2024 7:16 pm
East Lyme ― The attorney for an East Lyme property owner who encourages short stays in the Oak Grove Beach community stood up at a public hearing Monday with a warning: Any “targeted restrictions” on short-term rentals in town could result in lawsuits.
Jeffrey Londregan identified himself as the lawyer for the Vafidis family, who have been present at multiple Ad Hoc Short-Term Rental Committee meetings representing 44 Shore Rd. The two-story waterfront vacation home has been the subject of complaints from neighbors about trash, parking and noise concerns well into the night.
The committee held a hearing Monday evening to gauge input on how much regulation of the emerging short-term rental industry is necessary. After six months of discussion, the committee’s eight members expect to put their recommendations into writing by mid-February, with a presentation to the Board of Selectmen likely the following month.
Londregan said any regulation must be uniform across all residential properties in town or it could fail the “arbitrary and capricious” legal review standard that seeks to ensure decisions are made reasonably in accordance with facts and evidence.
He objected to the characterization of short-term rentals as businesses.
“Most of the cases that have occurred nationwide on short-term rentals outside of the Northeast have all determined and held that short-term rentals are not commercial uses. They are residential uses,” he said. “They’re residences for the tenants who rent them.”
Londregan referenced reports at the time of the committee’s first public hearing in September showing only two calls to police dispatch stemming from the Oak Grove neighborhood over the past three years.
The attorney said most of the calls in town were “not related to the narrative that short-term rentals are running amok in the town of East Lyme.”
Police Chief Mike Finkelstein has maintained short-term rentals do not appear to be a large driver of calls to the police, with the complaints that do come in revolving around noise or parking.
Police are empowered to investigate noise complaints and issue fines as well as write parking tickets.
Committee members over the past few months have discussed strengthening existing ordinances to make them more effective at reducing noise and parking problems across town, including at short-term rental locations.
Committee members like Greg McIntire, who lives on the street where Londregan’s client advertises short term stays, said he also wants equity in whatever decision the town makes. For him, the best way to do that is through a registration system which would require all short-term rental operators to provide basic information about their operation and to pay an annual fee.
“If you don’t put a registration system in, then you can never establish the size of the problem,” he said.