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September 19, 2018

Killington cracks down on VRBO ‘hotel’

Killington cracks down on VRBO ‘hotel’

By Katy Savage

KILLINGTON— The town of Killington is cracking down on at least one short-term rental.

Town Planning and Zoning Administrator Dick Horner sent a letter to the owner of a property listed on website, Vacation Rentals by Owner (VRBO), Aug. 2, explaining the owner is violating town zoning bylaws.

The property, located at 287 Estabrook Road, is owned by Vincent Connolly. Town records indicate it’s a three-bedroom house, but on the VRBO website, the 4,000 square-foot home is listed as a five-bedroom. (Connolly advertises it has four bedrooms “with an additional petite office area as th bedroom.” ) Though the home only has three bathrooms, it offers 19 separate beds for a total capacity of 32, according to it’s VRBO listing.The prices vary by season.  It was available for $739 a night as of Tuesday, Sept 18.

Horner said the property, which is located in a residential area, would need to have 14 more bedrooms to be compliant with town zoning bylaws, which indicate a dwelling should “have one bedroom for every two occupants.”

Additionally, the house’s septic is only permitted for a three-bedroom dwelling.

Connolly has owned the property for 15 years, though he is rarely seen staying there. Neighbors say the property is rented nearly every weekend through the winter.

This isn’t the first time Horner has looked into issues at Connolly’s home. Horner has had a file on the property since 2012, but he’s never pursued action.

“I didn’t think I had a solid case,” said Horner, explaining state laws regarding septic systems have changed since the issue.

The state Division of Fire Safety conducted a report in 2014. The report indicated that the property needed a sprinkler system to house 28 people, which would classify it as a hotel. Connolly has since installed sprinklers to comply with the state mandate. But local zoning prohibits commercial use in areas zoned as residential only.

Connolly’s home isn’t the only home listed on VRBO that sleeps more than 20 people. A seven-bedroom, three-bathroom house sleeps 28 for $644 a night while a seven-bedroom, five-bathroom house sleeps 25 for $2,000 a night.

Killington does not have zoning bylaws against vacation rental sites, but Horner said the town is looking into policies. Horner estimated he’s issued 15-20 zoning violations since he’s worked in Killington.

“It hasn’t been a huge issue,” Horner said.

But to some, it seems like the issue is becoming more and more of a problem. Some argue that the homes zoned residential areas, are operating like businesses.

Whit Montgomery, who has lived next door to the Estabrook Road property for 43 years, has long been concerned about the volume of people next door causing issues with the septic, which could impact his well.

Montgomery recently hired an engineer to look into those septic concerns. Kevin A. Smith of Marble Valley Engineers in Rutland, indicated the 1,000-gallon septic system next door to Montgomery was designed for single-family use. Smith said the septic system is “undersized for solids handling.”

“I don’t want to call it a hotel,” said Montgomery, who said he was supportive of people who wanted to rent their property.  “It’s about finding that balance.”

Attempts to reach Connolly weren’t successful.

In the August letter, Horner asked Connolly to stop advertising the home for rent to more than six people.

The Zoning Board of Adjustment is scheduled to have a hearing Oct.17 at 6 p.m. in the town office.

Following the hearing, the zoning board will issue a decision, saying they agree or disagree with Horner.

Connelly could be fined $200 a day for failing to take action after that date, should they agree with Horner.

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