Proposed Airbnb ordinance sent to Twp. Council

| 15 May 2019 | 04:26

    It took several months, but the Planning Board finally has a proposed Airbnb ordinance for the Township Council to review.
    With local places to stay overnight being very limited while tourism is promoted as a local major economic source, it makes sense to some people to share their homes with travelers.
    It’s no secret that the money from rentals can come in handy for people living in the Township of West Milford where taxes are among the highest in the nation.
    Finding it easy to be part of Airbnb all of a sudden can look like a winner to the overburdened taxpayer.
    But sooner, rather than later, neighbors are making it known that they don’t like strangers with unknown backgrounds staying overnight or for short term rentals in their neighborhoods.
    Airbnb is a service that lets property owners rent out their spaces to travelers who are looking for a place to stay.
    People can rent a space, a shared space with private rooms or the entire property themselves.
    This idea came from two industrial engineers who had recently moved to San Francisco and found they could not afford the rent for their loft.
    They decided to make up the money they needed by renting to people who could not find hotels.
    Air beds were set up in the apartment living room for guests to sleep on and the hosts cooked homemade breakfasts in the morning for their guests. Spreading worldwide, the idea found its way into West Milford.
    Enter West Milford officials who saw a need for controls for such activity.
    The West Milford Planning Board has been on the job crafting such an ordinance since the fall.
    Last month, Board Planner Jessica Caldwell reviewed the most recent version of a revised Short Term Rental Ordinance with an assessment of the comments from the Feb. 7 Planning Board meeting.
    After having a discussion on the latest revised proposed ordinance there was more opportunity for public comment.
    Following was more board member comment, followed by a consensus of the board, with exception of Linda Connolly, to refer the proposed ordinance to the council members for its review.
    Included to the material was a memo with board member comments for their study.
    The board suggestions were:
    Limit rentals to one renter per residence.
    Research taxes paid to Airbnb (5 percent occupancy fee) – Ordinance should establish the procedure for collecting state mandated occupancy tax from short term rental companies.
    If the owner is permitted to rent for 6 months out of the year, the ordinance should clarify if it is consecutive or cumulative.
    Fees for initial annual registrations should cover costs of staff to process and regulate.
    Inspection fees – separate collection to be done by departments or included in registration fees?
    Septic issues if occupancy is exceeded – maximum occupancy to be determined by Fire and Health and posted at the site.