P&Z Votes for $150 Annual Permit Fee for ’Airbnb’ and Other Short-Term Rental Owners 

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The Planning & Zoning Commission last week approved a measure whereby New Canaan property owners seeking to rent out their homes or rooms within them on a short-term basis, such as through the popular online service Airbnb, would need to pay an annual fee to the town.

The $150 ‘Short Term Rental Permit Fee’ still requires approval by the Board of Selectmen, according to Town Planner Lynn Brooks Avni.

Though not a revenue-generator, the fee would cover administrative costs such as application processing and filing, Brooks Avni told members of P&Z at their regular meeting, held Aug. 27 at Town Hall.

Commissioner Bill Redman said, “It’s not a money maker but it puts them on notice they need to have the proper paperwork. As soon as you put a dollar amount on it, it makes it a little bit more real.”

The town has been trying to figure out an effective, legal way to regulate Airbnb rentals since a town resident last summer raised concerns about the practice regarding safety, parking and what amounts to businesses operating in residential neighborhoods. Following discussions within New Canaan’s legislative body, P&Z took up the matter last fall, and earlier this year began drafting regulations that would require those letting out their properties for short-term rentals to obtain a zoning permit first.

Under the New Canaan Zoning Regulations, a “short-term residential rental” is defined as  a “temporary rental of part or all of a residential property for fewer than thirty consecutive nights at a time, for which the tenant compensates the owner of the property.” Those who own such rentals now face a number of restrictions (see page 50 here), including that the accessory use “shall not materially disrupt the character of the neighborhood” and “shall not be rented more than three lease instances during a rolling six-month period.” Property owners are limited to “one permit for one rental unit per property,” under the regulations.

New Canaan in the recent past has had about 18 short-term rentals available at a given time, officials said.

In addition to Redman, P&Z Commissioners John Goodwin (chairman), Jean Grzelecki (secretary), John Kriz, Laszlo Papp, Dan Radman, Kent Turner, Dick Ward and Krista Neilson voted in favor of the fee. Neilson had taken a lead on working with Brooks Avni on drafting the new regulation.

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