STONINGTON — For some local landlords, the growth of the private short-term rental market and online options such as Airbnb has proven to be a lucrative business, but one that, if not properly regulated, can make havoc in neighborhoods.

In a tough post-pandemic economy that has forced Americans to think outside the box, the market has also become a lifeline for others, with some able to use short-term rental options to make ends meet or pay the mortgage. . For some of these owners, it’s the only way to afford to stay in the community.

With the growing popularity of short-term rental services and the use of these options exponentially across the region, Stonington officials are looking to find common ground that will allow this lifeline to remain in place while protecting neighborhoods from bad landlords and unruly tenants. First coach Danielle Chesebrough said a meeting held in mid-June was a good first step, and the city will hold a community conversation in July as it continues to seek long-term solutions for short-term rentals. term at Stonington.

“We’ve found that traditional meetings kind of force people to clash, and that’s not the way to get an effective outcome,” Chesebrough said. “In the next conversation, we plan to host a roundtable to focus on more specific topics and hopefully build on what we developed in the first community conversation.”

After five years have passed since the last discussion – Chesebrough noted that the Stonington Board of Selectmen aimed to resolve the issue when elected in 2019, but the pandemic put efforts on the back burner – the town decided to re-engage residents by starting new conversations.

During the first meeting, which was held on June 20, the residents took part in an interactive discussion which allowed them to present questions and thoughts on the issues surrounding short-term rentals.

The managers posed five questions to the participants and the comments were collected in the written responses of the participants. Participants were then asked to review all responses and put a star next to no more than two responses per question. It was a way to gauge which ideas and/or concerns were most prevalent among the participants.

“People had some concerns about the impact this might have on property values ​​and year-round residents in neighborhoods, and rightly so,” Chesebrough said. “There are also a lot of people who are willing to meet certain standards and need this opportunity to make their housing affordable. You have to find a balance. »

Short-term rentals can be tricky for cities. Renters of these properties generate little local tax revenue, but can serve to stimulate the local economy by providing extra dollars to tourists in shops and restaurants. The extra traffic can cause pressure on roads, parking and emergency traffic or properties can deteriorate rapidly under poor ownership. At the same time, officials noted that good landlords will take the opportunity to make home improvements that can increase property values.

At the first meeting, residents called for city regulations to curb bad behavior, including restricting ‘party house’, placing capacity limits on homes, providing contact details of landlords to surrounding neighbors and limiting the number of designated short-term rentals in certain areas.

However, the city must also be careful not to infringe on the rights of residents and tenants, and Chesebrough said that means taking precautions to ensure the city does not overstep enforcement.

This includes providing a level of autonomy to landlords who have short-term rentals that have no history of disruptions, not restricting rentals to owner occupancy, and not imposing a significant time restriction on the rental conditions.

“We’ve waited too long to do anything, so we have to find a middle ground, and we have to do it soon. It will take time, but it is starting to move us in the right direction,” Chesebrough said. “Doing nothing is not acceptable, but for some these rentals are the only way to pay for their home. We have to keep that in mind.

The next meeting will be July 20 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Velvet Mill.

To share opinions, ask questions, or provide feedback, contact Director of Economic and Community Development Susan Cullen by email at [email protected] or First Selectman Danielle Chesebrough by email at [email protected] .gov.