GILFORD — To year-round residents, including at Gunstock Acres, short term rentals that turn into party palaces are a source of noise and chaos — sometimes around the clock. To owners who rent them and live nowhere nearby, they’re a gravy train that promises a valuable turnover of high-paying vacation renters.

To town residents who live here for half the year or more — including snowbirds and seniors — renting part or all of their home may be a needed source of income that buffers the expenses of mortgages, insurance and property taxes.

For the town of Gilford, accommodating these interests is a delicate balancing act.

The Gilford Planning Board will hold a public hearing on Wednesday, Jan. 19, at 7 p.m. on proposed changes to rules that affect short term rentals, including vacation rentals offered online through AirBNB and VRBO, and rent-generating properties with distant corporate owners.

Under the town’s definition, a short-term rental is any dwelling that is rented out for up to 30 days in a row, or offered for 30 or more days in a calendar year. The proposed code will exempt residents who lease out their primary homes, and will not apply to residential rentals of 90 days or longer.

If the changes are approved, other owners of short-term rentals will be required to secure conditional use permits. They’ll be required to submit site plans and floor plans indicating all entrances and exits, kitchen amenities, bathrooms, and sleeping areas and beds — which can include pull-out sofas or day beds in rooms that are not ordinarily used as bedrooms. Lot lines, parking spaces (one for each designated sleeping area) septic systems and wells and outdoor features such as pools and hot tubs must be clearly indicated. So must the owners’ names, emergency contact information and addresses.

Owners of short-term rentals must be available by phone around the clock, and able to arrive on site within 60 minutes. If not, a local agent must be appointed, who can be contacted in the event of a complaint, code violation or emergency.

Under the new rules, overnight occupancy can’t exceed the septic system’s capacity. Working smoke detectors must be in place. Required will be definite plans for storing and removing trash. Owners will be held accountable for complaints and tenant violations. Fines can be levied if problems aren’t corrected.    

It’s a laundry list of common-sense requirements for ensuring health and safety — and sanity — of full-time residents and transients — and it’s occurring at the same time the Board of Selectmen are seeking to upgrade the noise ordinance to prevent loud noises, including human speech, raucous laughter and yelling, from keeping residents awake at night and disrupting their privacy and quiet enjoyment.

Final drafts of the short-term rental regulations and expanded noise ordinance will head to Town Meeting on March 8, where they will be approved or rejected by residents.

Town leaders and planning and land use officials hope they will strike a workable compromise between the rights of private property owners to rent out their homes, and Gilford residents entitled to peace and quality of life while at home — with rules that go far enough, but not too far.

For Heidi Williams, who has lived on Sagamore Road in Gunstock Acres, the changes can’t come too soon, and she hopes Gilford residents will resoundingly approve them. If she could design an ideal system, no home in town would be rented out for less than 30 days, she said.

“I have no problem with short term rentals if the owner is living in the house or on the property, or if they want to rent for 30 days or longer. Then you don’t get the riff-raff,” said Williams, who lives below a short-term rental where bright lights remain on through the night, shining in her bedroom windows. Noise, litter and trash piled up outside are more than just an occasional annoyance or eyesore.

“You get 15 to 20 people in a house. It’s putting a strain on our water system and our police department,” said Williams. “Now we have 75 commercial rental properties in Gunstock Acres,” a community of roughly 650 single-family homes.

“This year there’s been a much stronger report of problems,” which have trickled or flowed in the last six to eight years, with various solutions contemplated by selectmen, said Gilford’s town planner, John Ayer.

“If you’re a homeowner, you should be able to rent out your home. If you’re a homeowner, you should be able to peacefully enjoy your property. You shouldn’t have to put up with a noisy, rambunctious party house every weekend. The fact is, the planning board wished to allow people to continue to rent their homes for whatever people wish, while tempering the effects of these short-term rentals,” said Ayer. “This is a ‘Live Free or Die’ state,” and local officials try not to make more rules than are required.

The retooled noise ordinance will prohibit “unreasonably loud voices or yelling that disturbs a person of average sensibilities” and “other sounds that constitute a breach of peace" as defined by current codes. Quiet hours would change from 10 p.m to 7 a.m., to 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. The Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion would be exempt during performances.

The town’s current noise ordinance addresses music, television or engine sounds and loudspeakers, but not human voices that aren’t amplified by technology.

Town Administrator Scott Dunn said the Select Board members will be re-doing parking ordinances to prevent hazardous overcrowding of vehicles on streets, and will eventually hold a public hearing on that proposal, which does not require a vote at town meeting.

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