Public meeting in Bethel Oct. 30 on short-term rental regulations

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BETHEL — In response to pressure from motel and inn owners in the area to extend lodging ordinance requirements to short-term rental properties, selectmen have scheduled a public informational meeting for Monday, Oct. 30. The meeting will take place at 6 p.m. at the Town Office.

Town Manager Christine Landes cited rentals available on Airbnb and similar websites.

In an email query to members of the Maine Town and City Managers Association, Landes noted that lodging place owners in Bethel “don’t feel it is fair for them as small business owners to have to go through the Planning Board process, make sure life safety code is followed, and pay the yearly municipal license fee, etc. when the Airbnbs can do whatever they want.”

Landes also provided a copy of an article in the Maine Townsman Magazine of the Maine Municipal Association, which described how Ogunquit handled the issue.

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That town identified residences advertised on Airbnb, Home Away and VRBO sites. Town officials established a rule for a minimum stay of seven days, and anyone renting out any single-family dwelling must apply for a business license and pay an annual fee.

Other requirements included 200-square-feet per person.

Homeowners’ insurance carriers must also inspect the dwellings. During that process, town officials said, some owners found their policies did not cover them.

Landes recommended the town hire a consultant to gather a list of the Bethel short-term rental properties and assist the town with ordinance changes, as other municipalities have done.

But selectmen decided to first hold an informational meeting for the general public, also specifically inviting licensed lodging owners.

Selectman Peter Southam said, “We’re putting our businesses who are doing the right thing at a disadvantage. We need to level the playing field.”

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