STOWE, VT. – Bob Poole was the first to notice the traffic.
Poole and his wife bought a home on Stowe’s Bull Moose Ridge Road in 2014 because of the loneliness. Poole, former editor of National Geographic magazine, spent four decades working in the Washington, DC area. Vermont was his Nirvana.
“My wife and I loved this place,” said Poole. “We started to look around us. We found this place and planned to sell everything in Virginia and move here. The big attraction was the calm.
An example: Every spring the woodcock staged a dramatic spectacle of mating rituals just across the narrow dirt road from Poole’s house. On a busy day, three or four cars can pass. There are only nine houses on the private road, marked with a personalized wooden sign.
Then, in 2018, everything changed.
“When the trouble started the first thing I noticed was the traffic, mostly on weekends, a parade of cars coming and going, creating clouds of dust,” Poole said. .
‘Summer people’: Greensboro is zero point in the struggle for short-term rentals
Poole quickly realized that the destination of this parade of cars was his next door neighbor, about 300 yards down the road.
“We realized this was an Airbnb rented as a party house,” he said.
Short-term rentals like Airbnb have sparked controversy across the country, including Vermont, and not just because they sometimes turn into party houses.
Why are short term rentals bad?
There are currently bills in both Vermont House and the Senate to address other issues related to short-term rentals, including health and safety concerns.
These concerns have been brought to the fore by the COVID-19 pandemic. No one knows how many short-term rentals there are in the state, to whom they belong or how often they are rented. Tim Piper, co-chair of the Vermont Lodging Association, estimates that there are as many as 6,800 unlicensed short-term rentals in Vermont.
When the pandemic hit, the state realized it had no way of contacting the owners of these rentals to make sure they were following the same rules as the rest of the hospitality industry, including setting in quarantine and complete closure during certain periods.
“There are intense public health implications for an unregulated party house in the midst of a pandemic that makes it all more urgent,” said Vermont Representative Emilie Kornheiser, D-Brattleboro, one of the sponsors. of the house’s short-term rental bill.
Don’t ask us not to party
The music was loud, blasting from loudspeakers on the deck of a house just up the road from Bob Poole.
“I went up the road a few times and asked them to lower it,” Poole said. “They didn’t like an old nut in the street asking them not to party.”
As soon as he returned home, the music resumed. Poole called the cops. The same scenario unfolded. Turn it down when the cops arrive. Ride it when they leave.
Across Vermont, variations of this theme occur as short-term renters are drawn to some of the state’s most scenic and iconic places by Airbnb and other rentals.
“Just beyond this neighborhood, I can’t tell you how many people I’ve heard from in this area, which is dependent on tourism, who have this problem, all over Stowe,” said Poole. “I am safe all over Vermont.”
The owners of the party house – Scott and Ann McCready of Harvard, Massachusetts, and their son Anders – have obtained a restraining order against Poole to prevent him from going to their property. The only problem? He never went to their property.
“I said in court: ‘I have never met any of these gentlemen, father and son, in my life, I have never seen them or spoken to because they are not available to talk” “, a Poole explained. “I stayed on the road and called someone on the road. I never set foot on the property.”
Can you help me out of this ditch, my brother?
Poole never met the McCreadys because they were never around, said Poole’s friend and neighbor Mike Krancer. Krancer lives at the top of Bull Moose Ridge Road, in a contemporary hiking home named Mount Haven.
The panoramic view from Mount Haven is spectacular, taking in the entirety of this mountain valley from its deck. Far below, the party house, a red lodge-like structure that Krancer points to, is difficult to see from such a distance. It’s not hard to hear, however, he said.
“We had a direct line of audibility,” Krancer said. “When they played music, oh my god, yeah.”
The valley acted as a natural amphitheater, collecting sound and delivering it to Mount Haven.
In winter, revelers caused another problem. They often got stuck, trying to drive the narrow, snowy road in their ill-suited cars. Another of Krancer’s friends who lives on the road, Bill Wengel, is expected to save them.
“Billy should take them out,” Krancer said. “He is true and true of Vermont, born here, and knows how to get them out of the ditch.”
What is a short term rental?
The Vermont House and Senate bills are both designed to limit short-term rentals and impose on them the same rules and regulations that govern inns and commercial hotels.
Kornheiser’s bill, along with the Senate bill, calls for the creation of a register of short-term rentals, with the names and contact details of all owners of those rentals in the state.
Kornheiser said the registry is important both for “health and safety reasons” related to COVID-19, but also to provide “technical assistance” from a tourism perspective.
The second aspect of Kornheiser’s bill is a residency requirement for owners of short-term rentals. This aims to solve the affordable housing problem in Vermont, preventing people from buying properties and renting them out as short-term rentals rather than living in them or turning them into long-term rentals.
“It has a big impact on the rental market and the community if you have houses with people who live there without permanence,” Kornheiser said. “It gives a really transient and unstable feeling to a neighborhood.”
Kornheiser said she doesn’t want to interfere with people who rent a room or two in their home through Airbnb to pay their mortgages or property taxes.
“There has to be a way to strike a balance between the needs of people in households who are trying to make ends meet and those who are engaged in the tourism economy, but not regulated,” she said. “If you want to fall into an unregulated category called short-term rentals, you have to live in the house you’re renting.”
Conversely, if you want to rent a house that you don’t live in for the short term, you have more power, Kornheiser said, but you have to follow the same rules for hotels and B & Bs in Vermont.
Harmful or offensive activity prohibited
Krancer sued the McCreadys in Vermont Superior Court in Lamoille County for violating the covenants and conditions of the nine-lot subdivision known as Bull Moose Ridge Properties. One of the restrictions is to use the lots for “residential purposes only”. Another is the prohibition of “harmful or offensive activities”.
On August 22, 2018, Judge Thomas Z. Carlson ruled in favor of Krancer and gave the parties six days to work things out. Otherwise, he would do it for them.
Carlson found that since purchasing the property in June 2017, the McCreadys had rented it at least 20 times – at a cost of $ 1,000 per night – to short-term tenants.
“As of August 2018, they have been advertising the property on Airbnb as ‘Bull Moose Lodge’ with 8 bedrooms, 16 beds, 5 bathrooms and room for guests 16 and over,” Carlson wrote.
Carlson noted that the defendants had “presented no evidence as to their own use and occupation of the property.”
Krancer, a former litigator, put his own questions to the defendants during the civil litigation discovery process. Eighty-six questions, in fact, including “What are you telling the Internal Revenue Service for which you are using the property?”
“Mike is a great lawyer and a great guy,” said Poole. “He’s not a guy you want to fight with. He’s like a Jack Russell Terrier. He doesn’t let go.”
Soon, Krancer received an opening from the McCreadys, seeking to settle down. They offered to put the house on the market.
“I said ‘No it’s definitely not good enough because you will continue to rent,’” Krancer said. “And if you put it on the market, you can put it at a price that will never bite you. “
The solution turned out to be Krancer buying the house himself, for around $ 900,000. He lets his friends and family use it – quietly – and has no intention of selling or renting it.
Obviously, not everyone can handle a party house problem like Krancer and his wife did. All the more reason for Vermont, according to State Senator Michael Sirotkin, D-Chittenden.
Sirotkin is leading the efforts of the Vermont Senate to regulate short-term rentals.
“As this short-term rental platform becomes more and more prevalent – and it grows very quickly – we need a better application and inspections on them,” Sirotkin said. . “We need to know for sure where and who they are.”
Contact Dan D’Ambrosio at 660-1841 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @DanDambrosioVT. This coverage is only possible with the support of our readers.