LACONIA — The fourth time was the charm for people seeking city approval to operate a short-term rental in a residential neighborhood.
After turning down three previous requests, the Zoning Board of Adjustment on Monday gave a special exception to S. Peter Karagianis to operate an Airbnb-type rental at 73 Gilford Ave., the home in which he grew up.
Short-term rentals have become a front-burner issue in the City On The Lakes, where some feel such businesses should be permitted by right, while others complain about associated traffic, noise and parking issues.
“In an effort to keep this home in my family, we would love the opportunity to fund the maintenance and upkeep of the home by hosting guests through both local and online hospitality platforms,” said Karagianis, who owns Happy Jack’s Cigar, Pipe and Tobacco Shop and resides in Gilford.
Current zoning ordinances ban such rentals in most residential areas, but the City Council decided last fall not to enforce those rules unless someone complains.
Meantime, the council plans to consider an approach suggested by Mayor Ed Engler that would allow people to operate short-term rentals in most parts of the city for up to 100 days with the approval of their immediate neighbors.
The issue has come to a head in Laconia and other areas attractive to tourists as people flock to online rental marketers such as Airbnb and VRBO. Proponents say such rentals boost the local economy by bringing paying tourists to the area.
Laura Dunn, who lives at 78 Gilford Ave., appeared before the board to oppose the proposal.
“If it was Santa Claus, or my own family proposing this, I would still be objecting,” she said in an interview Tuesday. “It is not what this neighborhood needs.
“People are vacationing. They are not lights out at 8. They are coming back partying and being loud.”
In other cases where the Zoning Board considered an exception or variance for a short-term rental, the panel got involved because neighbors complained. In this case, Karagianis took a proactive approach and sought approval from the board before opening the business.
He hopes to attract vacationing families in the summer and skiers in the winter. Doctors and nurses visiting Lakes Region General Hospital could be another target group, he said.
“I want to be transparent with my community and respectful of my neighbors, rather than operate with less than optimal results as others may have done in the past,” he said.
One of the three other short-term rental proposals previously rejected by the board was a special exception request for a home at 77 Opechee St., near the middle school. On Monday night, the board denied a rehearing request for that proposal.