26 Old Hamburg Road, Lyme (CT Examiner/Hewitt)

Lyme Forms Working Group to Draft Ordinance on Short-term Rentals

LYME — After receiving complaints about parking violations and noise disturbances at 26 Old Hamburg Road, a property purchased in February for use as an Airbnb, the Planning and Zoning Commission chose to pursue interim measures until its newly-formed working group can craft an ordinance addressing short-term rentals. 

The .1-acre property at 26 Old Hamburg Road consists of a 1-bedroom, 704-square-foot house built in 1859 that has a dock and fronts Hamburg Cove. According to the property card, Tower Benson and Eleanor Bianchini of Worcester, Mass. purchased the property on Feb. 6, 2020. 

As a short-term measure, the board asked Ross Byrne, Zoning Enforcement Officer for Lyme, to write a letter to the owners of the property stating the need for the property to obtain a bed and breakfast permit from the town, which requires the owner be present on site as well as a number of other stipulations. 

“The main difference between a bed and breakfast and a short term rental is the bed and and breakfast requires safety inspections and determination by the sanitarian of the suitability of the water supply and septic systems on the property,” said Bernie Gigliotti, chair of the commission. “People that are engaging in short term rentals don’t do any of that and there’s nothing in our regulations that requires it in any way shape or form. The fact that there’s an owner present or not present is secondary to those factors.” 

There are other short-term rentals available in Lyme, but board members said this property needed to be singled out to protect the neighborhood along the road. 

“We need to stop the egregious situation at 26 Old Hamburg Road and we need to buy ourselves time to write the proper regulations or ordinance that will cover this type of situation that will allow property owners sufficient use of their property without bothering their neighbors,” said Mary Stone, an alternate on the commission. “That is the entire purpose of zoning is to keep people from bothering their neighbors, so let’s look and see how we can craft this to achieve what we need it to achieve.”

The board considered sending a cease and desist letter to the property owners, but Byrne said if the property owners fight it and win, either through the Zoning Board of Appeals or in court, then the use of the property as a short-term rental will be grandfathered in. 

“If the ZBA overturns the denial and grants them a variance then that runs with the land forever and we’re stuck with it. If the ZBA upholds the denial they have the right to appeal it to court, so we could end up in a legal battle,” said Gigliotti. 

The commission agreed to form a working group to draft a municipal ordinance to regulate short-term rentals, which would apply to property owners on a case-by-case basis. The commission chose to craft an ordinance instead of a zoning regulation because the latter would run with the land.

The working group members include William Koch Jr., Carol House, Mary Stone and Humphrey Tyler.

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