City Council proposes prohibition of nonowner-occupied short-term rentals in Newport

NEWPORT – The City Council is moving forward with a proposal to ban short-term rentals of nonowner-occupied homes in areas of the city zoned as residential districts.

The City Council briefly discussed a proposed zoning ordinance to introduce restrictions on short-term rentals, which are commonly facilitated through online lodging marketplaces such as Airbnb, during its Jan. 26 meeting. The council voted to refer the proposal to the Planning Board, tasking the board to provide recommendations on the matter, and also to hold a public hearing on the matter.

Councilor-at-Large Jamie Bova said the proposal is meant to protect the quality of the city’s residential neighborhoods, making sure they aren’t overrun by short-term renters with scores of nonowner-occupied homes.

“I think it’s a good step in our ongoing work to try to pull back and get the short-term rental situation under control,” Bova said during the public meeting. “I think it will help get housing stock back to year-round Newporters.”

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The proposal would allow for rentals of guest rooms in owner-occupied homes in residential areas if the owner were present during the rental period.

Short-term rentals are now allowed by right in the city’s Limited Business District, according to a report by the Newport Daily News, but under the newly proposed amendments, they would require a special use permit from the Zoning Board of Review. Short-term rentals are also permitted by right in the Waterfront Business and General Business districts, the newspaper reported, but this would not be changed under the newly proposed zoning amendments.

Council members have expressed concerns about short-term rentals leading to spikes in real estate values, and consequently the loss of moderately priced homes. Another concern is that the Airbnb-style rentals, for the most part, do not occur during the winter, resulting in “dark homes,” which contribute to a fleeting sense of community, according to the Newport Daily News. In the past, quality-of-life issues have been associated with short-term rentals in Newport, including excessive noise created by guests and guest vehicles taking up on-street parking.

Newport currently requires property owners who engage in short-term rentals to register their property as a “Transient Guest Facility,” which costs $115, including a registration fee and a filing fee.

The proposal to ban nonowner-occupied short-term rentals in residential districts follows up on the City Council’s decision last year to amend zoning ordinances so that owners can face citations if they advertise their properties as available for short-term renters when they are not registered.

Marc Larocque is a PBN staff writer. Contact him at Larocque@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter @LaRockPBN.