Members of the town’s legislative body said Monday that they want to control the rising use in New Canaan of popular online rental-by-owner service after seeing an uptick in activity.
Airbnb has been a subject of wide discussion in town and with more properties being offered as short-term rentals through it, the Town Council should “get ahead of abuse of that app,” Steve Karl, a co-chair of the body’s Bylaws and Ordinances Subcommittee said during a meeting at Town Hall.
“We have had issues. Folks that are using it on more frequent basis, neighbors that are complaining about some transient activity at homes. So we actually looked into a commercial use tax possibility. Denver adopted an ordinance where they had an 8 percent hotel tax that they had but then they upped it to a 29 percent commercial use tax that Airbnb has to pay. So they were seeing a dramatic decrease in hotel use, so they put this in place to try to mitigate some of the loss because so many folks were renting out homes for additional income.”
While municipal bodies including the Planning & Zoning Commission have kept tabs on Airbnb use in New Canaan for a few years, the matter came to the forefront over the summer when a Butler Lane man voiced concerns about what amounted to a “small hotel business” operating in his residential neighborhood.
A search of the Airbnb website shows that more than one dozen New Canaan properties are available for nightly rentals, more than triple the number that had been on the site this summer. They range from single rooms, cottages and townhouses to entire homes, renting from $86 to $450 per night.
Karl noted during the meeting that New Canaan has rules on the books regarding such operations. The New Canaan Zoning Regulations allow a “rooming house” use by special permit, though only in the B Residential zone. A “bed and breakfast” use also may be had by special permit, though conditions include screening from the street (see page 44 here).
Councilman Penny Young, a guest at the meeting, said development of an ordinance regarding Airbnb should be a higher priority than matters such as creation of a Blight Committee.
“I mean you have the potential for some serious things happening in people’s homes that we are not monitoring what is going on,” Young said. “Are there fire codes? Are there health codes? There are all kinds of things that would have greater consideration.”
She added that Airbnb has “some real downsides to it.”
Karl said he agreed and that is why the subcommittee is taking it up.
Young said, “But not in three months from now.”