Woodstock inches closer to regulation of short-term rentals

Richard Heppner (photo by Dion Ogust)

A committee chaired by Woodstock Councilman Richard Heppner has proposed to the town board that short term rentals, such as AirBnb, where the owner of the property is not on site require a special use permit from the Planning Board, as well as having the available of a local emergency contact. The new classification will also include a limit of two adults per room. For those who live on the property, regulations mainly addressing fees and registration will by combined into those that already exist for bed-and-breakfasts.

The committee has met for the past several months to work out details of zoning changes and regulations to deal with the rapid increase of short-term rentals, mainly by owners who are not present. Currently it is illegal to rent short-term without being present on the property. The new classification will apply to all rentals when the owner is not present, regardless of whether it is an occasional rental or more frequent throughout the year.

A group of short-term rental owners complained they weren’t notified until the last minute that the Town Board was discussing the matter, though Supervisor Bill McKenna said he has practically begged and pleaded to have a meeting with the group and hasn’t received a response. He added the board has only begun discussing the new regulations and anything adopted can be tweaked. “We’re not finished once we pass this,” he said. “There will be adjustments.”


McKenna described ways of working flexibility into the new regulations, such as including registration and inspection fees in the town fee schedule instead of the zoning law. If the town decides to adjust any fees, the board can then make the change with a resolution instead of requiring a zoning amendment, he explained.

McKenna said the town has been working with short-term listing giant Airbnb on the regulations and added they have been “wonderful” in recent conversations.

“A lot of this came from Airbnb,” said Heppner, referring to the company’s discussions and supplying the town with sample legislation. McKenna noted it’s in Airbnb’s best interest to help with legislation so their listings are legal.

“We as a board are listening,” Councilwoman Laura Ricci said. “We came to this after a steady stream of people saying their lives were miserable” because of the constant noise, garbage and other nuisances.

“If there’s anything you guys can do to alleviate that…” McKenna said to the group of owners in the audience.

One owner said she has a “No Parties” rule and has included the new noise ordinance in her house instructions to guests. McKenna and others on the board thanked her for being responsible.

“We are blessed and cursed being the second most famous town in the world,” Councilman Lorin Rose said.