standing Westerly Town Hall

WESTERLY — The Town Council will tackle on Saturday what has proved to be a vexing issue — crafting a short-term rental ordinance that protects property owners' right to the quiet enjoyment of their homes as well as the rights of those involved in a growing industry.

Town Council President Sharon Ahern said she proposed a special meeting dedicated to only the short-term rental issue to give council members time to focus. Short-term rentals have flourished in the aftermath of the success of online companies such as Airbnb  that provide a clearinghouse of property owners who rent their homes to vacationers and other guests.

"It's a really big issue and to try to combine it with regular business I don't think it would give us the outcome that we want. We would really like to pound out something that we can take to a public hearing," Ahern said.

The meeting is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. at Town Hall in Council Chambers. Interested individuals are encouraged attend and address the council, Ahern said. Comments will also be taken via Zoom at: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86772551913 or by calling 929-205-6099 or 877- 853 5257. The meeting identification number is 867 7255 1913.

Ahern said she has studied short-term rental ordinances that are in place in Newport, Massachusetts and New York and found a variety of approaches in different places.

"We're really going to have to have public input, and I think the councilors are not even clear on how they want to approach it," Ahern said.

The foundation of the proposed ordinance was developed by Town Attorney Dylan Conley at the direction of former Town Manager J. Mark Rooney, who recommended establishment of an ordinance after receiving complaints from neighbors about unruly tenants of short-term rentals in the three years he served here.

Councilors might continue working with the current proposal or could go in a different direction.

"It wouldn't surprise me if it changed substantially, or it may not," Ahern said.

While some residents pushed the council to develop an ordinance that could be enforced during the summer of 2021, the issue proved to be too complex and the council promised to return to work on the issue, Ahern said.

"Because it was so complicated, but we do really need to pound this out sooner rather than later," Ahern said.

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