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Great Barrington Town Meeting to consider dueling proposals for short-term rental rules

 Great Barrington, Massachusetts
Nancy Eve Cohen
Great Barrington, Massachusetts

Great Barrington, Massachusetts, voters will consider two proposals at Town Meeting on Monday night to govern short-term rentals, like Airbnbs.

The dueling bylaws both address safety, such as requiring smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.

But one would allow owners to operate only one property as a short-term rental. And if an owner isn't present, it can be rented out for no more than 150 days a year. If the owner is, there is no time limit, but they can rent out only up to two rooms.

Select Board Vice Chair Leigh Davis said the proposal would deter speculators from buying a home just to make a profit and create what she calls a mini-hotel.

"Every weekend they might have different strangers coming in. Sometimes they might have parties. Sometimes it'll be empty for months on end," Davis said. "And so, it's really having a devastating effect in many cases on the character of a neighborhood."

Select Board member Ed Abrahams said Great Barrington is a tourist town and he thinks of visitors as guests. He supports the other proposal, which would not limit the number of days or rooms that can be rented short-term.

"Really the only difference is one of them lets a homeowner do what they want with their home for as long as they want, as long as there aren't problems and complaints. And the other one limits them," Abrahams said.

He said reducing short-term rentals would reduce room tax revenues for the town.

Town Meeting will also be voting on whether to impose an additional 3% fee on short-term rentals of two- and three-family homes, and whether to dedicate all of those fees to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.