On October 24, 2018

Too big to rent? Public hearing on VRBOs postponed

By Katy Savage

A public hearing before the Killington Development Review Board about a Killington rental home was called off moments after it started Oct. 17.

Attorney Pat Burke, who represented several property owners in the Cricket Hill Community at the meeting, argued the Wednesday night meeting held no merit because the owners of the vacation rental missed the 15-day deadline to file an appeal after receiving a zoning violation notice from Zoning Administrator Dick Horner.

Horner issued the notice to Vincent Connolly on Aug. 2, explaining his three-bedroom home on Estabrook Road, which he rents to up to 28 people, is not compliant with town zoning bylaws. The bylaws only allow two-people per bedroom in residential areas.

Connolly, who was traveling at the time, didn’t receive the notice, he said. Horner reissued the notice Aug. 24. The appeal was filed Sept. 7.

The Development Review Board voted to move the public hearing to Nov. 7 at 6 p.m., so the town’s attorney Kevin Brown of Langrock, Sperry and Wool could prove guidance to the board about Burke’s arguments.

Burke further argued Connolly’s appeal failed to include the address, the full name of the property owner and property description—necessary components of zoning violation appeals. 

“It didn’t inform any of us what the appeal was,” said Burke in a later interview.

Connolly purchased his home in 2005 as a vacation spot for his friends before he started renting it to groups on the rental website, Vacation Rentals By Owner (VRBO). The home has enough beds for 19 people, though Connolly allows up to 28 people to stay there, he said.

The violation was issued after Whit Montgomery, who lives next door to Connolly, complained of noise from the vacationers. He also expressed concern about Connolly’s septic system overflowing with so many people in the home. Montgomery brought his concerns to a Select Board meeting in September.

“As an abutting landowner, I’m concerned for my well,” Montgomery said in a phone interview. “It’s not just my [concern] it’s the whole neighborhoods’.”

Montgomery, who works as the police chief in Killington, said he may also rent his four-bedroom home to vacationers to help pay taxes.

“I have zero issue with people renting their houses,” Whit Montgomery clarified. “This is not about that, it’s about capacity and local ordinance. We live in a residential area, but now it’s like there’s a commercial hotel on the block.”

Connolly argued after the meeting on Wednesday that his property is no different from the many other vacation rentals in Killington. In 2015, Connolly paid about $60,000 for a new sprinkler system so he could comply with the Vermont Department of Public Safety in allowing 28 people to stay there safely. He’s also gotten the O.K. from the state for his septic and water systems, he said.

However, the home still does not comply with town zoning bylaws, said Horner.

“He turned [the home] into a hotel in a residential district,” said Horner. “He has a three-bedroom and he’s renting it out to, at times, 32 people. That’s not appropriate in a residential neighborhood.”

Horner said he would look at future zoning violations on a “case by case basis.”

Connolly feels his case represents the “silent majority,” who would also be in violation of the two-people-per-bedroom restriction, should the town apply that standard universally – which is the only way a townwide ordinance should be applied, he said. Others won’t speak out for fear of also being targeted with a violation, he added.

Killington is the highest-grossing short-term rental area in the state, according to AirBnb, another popular rental site.

Connolly could appeal to the state’s environmental court depending on results of the Development Review Board meeting, Nov. 7.

About 30 people attended the meeting on Wednesday in anticipation of speaking.

“I’m disappointed we couldn’t get to the actual resolution of the argument and have some finality to it,” Horner said after the Oct. 17 meeting was postponed.

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