The Greensboro Planning Commission is revisiting regulation of short-term rentals, this time hoping a strict focus on creating a registry will prompt the town’s selectboard to give it the green light.

Last year, the planning commission put together a comprehensive plan that would have compelled short-term rental owners to comply with state regulations and fire safety codes and be subject to a rooms tax. It also had a registry component and would have not allowed owners to advertise above occupancy.

While the bylaw generated both a great deal of opposition and support, the selectboard eventually declined to put the comprehensive bylaw to voters at March Town Meeting Day, even while Greensboro residents voted to expand minimum lot sizes for development around Lake Eligo and reduced minimum lot sizes in village areas.

Now the commission is trying to put forward a registration-focused bylaw for the selectboard to consider.

While last year’s bylaw tried to do it all, this draft sets out to achieve only two objectives: to bring short-term rentals into compliance with Greensboro zoning laws and state regulations, and establish a registry to collect data that could help guide future town planning.

One issue, commission chair Kent Hansen noted, is that the area around Greensboro’s Caspian Lake sits in the shoreline protection zoning district, where no businesses are technically allowed to operate, so the number of rentals operating within the area needs to be determined and managed.

“Rentals around the lake have been going on for a long time and there is a sense that the short term-rental segment of that is increasing,” Hansen said.

According to AirDNA, a website that tracks Airbnb rentals using data scraped from the rental service, 36 short-term rentals were available in Greensboro this summer, which nearly matched the number available the summer prior to a pandemic-induced slump in 2020 and 2021.

The commission set January 2023 as a preliminary date for a public hearing around the measure, but no exact timeframe has been set.

One potential concern for zoning administrator Brett Stanciu is a lack of an enforcement mechanism that would compel compliance from short-term rental owners and ensure registration.

But Hansen said the first step is to collect the data on short-term rentals and figure out any enforcement or further regulations at a later time..

“Our next step that we felt made sense was simply to work on trying to understand the scope of short-term rentals in Greensboro and to make sure they’re complying with state regulations,” Hansen said.

Next, it will be up to the public and the selectboard to determine if the proposal should be considered for a March Town Meeting Day vote.

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