The front porch at an Airbnb rental at 36 Burleigh St. in Waterville. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file Buy this Photo

WATERVILLE — The Waterville Planning Board decided it was not ready Monday night to make recommendations to the City Council on what regulations the city should have in place for short-term rentals, though members have worked for weeks on the issue.

Instead, the board decided to form a subcommittee, headed by Planning Board member Steve Crate, and come back with proposed rules and regulations Nov. 2.

The City Council and City Manager Michael Roy asked the board to come up with proposed regulations and then bring them back to the council, which would make the final decision.

Roy said some city residents have complained about short-term rentals, particularly those whose owners do not live at the properties.

Leah Bartley told board members Monday the regulations they have come up with so far are too restrictive. She said she bought three properties in Waterville to rehabilitate them. She uses local contractors, electricians and cleaning companies. She said she advertises on Airbnb.com, and people come to Maine from New York and other places and spend money here.

“I just think we need to be careful in terms of policy and a lot of restrictions,” Bartley said.

She said her properties have to be preapproved by Airbnb. The neighbors at her properties like the tenants who rent them, Bartley said.

“Ultimately, it is the City Council that is going to vote this up or down, and the City Council has the ability to make modifications to what we present,” board Chairman Paul Lussier said.

Lussier noted the board did not decide on its own to come up with rules and regulations. The City Council asked the board to do so.

Board member Samantha Burdick said the board had looked at other community regulations regarding short-term rentals.

“We didn’t just throw this together,” she said.

Meanwhile, former city councilor Phil Bofia said the board’s current proposed rules include a requirement that the Fire Department inspect short-term rentals, including short-term rentals in single-family homes.

Bofia said requiring the Fire Department to inspect single-family homes — along with the multifamily homes they already inspect — would create more work for fire officials.

Bofia, who is running for mayor in the Nov. 3 election, also opposed requiring short-term rental owners to pay $120 a year to the city.

Dana Jenkins, owner of Anchor House, an Airbnb on Burleigh Street, said she and her mother need the income from that business for upkeep and maintenance of their home. She is registered with the city clerk for the Airbnb, and pays a $120 fee annually, she said.

Jenkins said if regulations or additional fees were added, she hoped they would be reasonable for people who rely on the supplemental income to maintain their homes.

Retiree Ann Longley said her short-term rental on Roosevelt Avenue helps pay taxes and with the cost of upkeep. It is open only six months of the year, she said.

“It’s not a whole lot of money, and it’s really helpful,” she said

Board member Bruce White proposed establishing a subcommittee and having Bartley, Longley and Jenkins as some of its members. He said he was not ready to take a vote on recommendations to the council.

“I don’t know what the answer is,” he said. “It’s a complicated issue. We have to do it right.”

Lussier agreed, as did Bofia, who said he would serve on a subcommittee.

“The least we can do,” Bofia said, “is to sit with the people to talk with them, so we can come up with something that works for the city.”

Crate said he would head up the subcommittee, and anyone wanting to serve on it should call him at 207-314-2049 or email him at [email protected]

“We’ll meet and we’ll come up with some language,” Crate said, “and we’ll come back to the Planning Board.”

Some board members said it is important to have people on the committee who have concerns about short-term rentals, in addition to the short-term rental owners who do not want a lot of restrictions.

White made a motion to approve such a committee and Lussier seconded his motion, which was approved 6-0. Board member Cathy Weeks was absent from the meeting.

In other matters Monday, the board took a final, 6-0 vote to approve, with conditions, a plan by HEP Energy USA for a 4.9-megawatt solar farm at 41 Webb Road. HEP will lease land from the city for the solar farm, which would be just west of Chesley Drive.

One of the conditions is that the applicant may use existing vegetation on the north side of the site, with the addition of plantings connecting a proposed buffer.

Lussier made the motion to approve, and White seconded the motion.

The board also voted 6-0 to recommend the City Council rezone part of Robert LaFleur Municipal Airport property on Airport Road from Airport District to Airport Industrial District to allow Cenergy to construct a solar farm there. The area targeted for rezoning is on the east side of the city-owned airport, north of the east-west runway.

The Planning Board has no authority to rezone properties, but may make a recommendation to the council, which has that authority.

White made the motion to recommend rezoning and Crate seconded his motion.

“I think it’s a no-brainer,” Crate said of the request.

Also on Monday night, the board reviewed an informal application by Cogley Real Estate to convert a commercial property at 13 College Ave. into 16 apartments that would rent for $800 each, with everything included. Cogley already has three apartments at the building.

The property is two buildings north of Union Street, on the east side of College Avenue, next to 15 College Ave., also a rental unit Cogley owns.

No vote was required Monday on the proposal.

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