Groton to hold hearing on regulating short-term rentals – theday.com

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December 29, 2023 5:53 pm
• Last Updated: December 29, 2023 5:53 pm

Groton ― The Planning and Zoning Commission has scheduled a public hearing on proposed regulations that would ban new or expanded short-term rentals in some town zones, while allowing them with conditions in a larger number of zones.

The hearing is slated for 7 p.m. Jan. 9 at the Town Hall Annex and via Zoom. The commission is expected to render a decision at a later date.

The town previously has not regulated short-term rentals, said Deborah Jones, the town’s assistant director of planning and development services.

The Planning and Zoning Commission, which has been working with a consultant, the Horsley Witten Group, is proposing the regulations to limit the impact of short-term rentals, defined as dwellings rented out for 30 days or less, in certain zones; ban them in other zones; and conditionally allow them in other zones, the proposal states.

Jones said that if the commission adopts the proposed regulations, they would only apply to new short-term rentals or expansions of short-term rentals.

The proposal says the regulations are consistent with the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development, as they would “preserve and enhance community character” and accommodate changing housing needs.

“Recent analysis reveals a housing shortage as the town’s largest employers expand their workforce,” the proposal states. “This shortage is exacerbated by the conversion of existing homes to short-term rentals. This text amendment will control the unregulated creation of new short term rental units.”

Specifically, the proposed regulations call for banning new, or expanded, short-term rentals in several zones in town: Residential Single-Unit (RS) zones; Working Waterfront zones; Industrial, General zones; and green districts.

New or expanded short-term rentals would be allowed with conditions in Commercial, Neighborhood and Commercial, Regional zones and in Industrial, Mixed-Use zones. The short-term rental owners would need to receive site plan approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission and meet conditions, including those for parking, noise and nuisance, and lighting.

The proposal stipulates that there must be one off-street parking space for every bedroom; the short-term rental may be located in the primary dwelling unit or in one accessory building; and the rental owners must show “through setbacks, buffering, topography, or other means that the Short Term Rental shall not be a nuisance to abutting residential neighbors,” among other rules.

New or expanded short-term rentals could operate in Residential (R), Rural Residential (RU), Residential Multi-Unit (RM), Mystic Downtown District (MDD), Mixed-Use Town Center (MTC), and Mixed-Use Village Center (MVC) zones, if the owners meet the conditions and receive a special permit. A special permit requires a Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing and gives the commission more flexibility with adding conditions, Jones said.

According to the proposed rules, in the R, RU and RM residential zones, the owner or lessee must live in one of the units of a two-unit dwelling, in the principal unit, or in an accessory building on the property. There can be no more than one rental per lot in R and RU zones and in RM zones which have one and two-unit dwellings.

Temporary events, which are already regulated under the town’s existing zoning regulations and require site plan approval in all zones, are not allowed to be held by people occupying a short-term rental in a Residential (R) zone or in a Rural Residential (RU) zone on a less than two-acre property, according to the application.

The full proposal and rules are available online at https://www.groton-ct.gov/departments/plandev/pendingapps.php. More information also is available on https://www.greatergroton.com/short-term-rentals-in-groton.

Council to take up its own STR rules

Meanwhile, Town Mayor Rachael Franco said the Town Council also will take up the topic of short-term rentals in the near future.

Franco said that at this time, she is unaware of which direction the council will take. But she would like the council to review a draft ordinance to regulate short-term rentals and have town attorney discuss any legal aspects.

The ordinance is separate from the proposed planning and zoning regulations and would apply to all short-term rentals, both new and already operating, according to the town.

The draft ordinance, which was created by the council in 2021 but never adopted, calls for short-term rental owners to annually register with the town and provide information, including contacts for the owner or agent who must be available to respond to complaints, a statement that the rental has smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and a parking plan. The owner has to provide information to the renter about maximum occupancy, parking, trash collection, emergency contacts, any noise and use restrictions, and a statement that the renter is not allowed to “trespass on private property or to create disturbances.”

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