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Leaving the lights on for short-term renters?

Some in Yardley take dim view of how proposed ordinance could be enforced


Yardley Council tackled a controversial topic this month: Should the borough have an ordinance allowing short-term rental housing in town?

There are already at least four houses that owners are allowing people to rent for a long weekend or extended stay, said Council President Caroline Thompson.

Council, and residents, are divided on the merits of the short-term stays.

On the one hand, they allow visitors to come and experience the town. One property owner who is renting her property said in a letter to council that it even led to a visitor buying a home in Yardley rather than in Newtown.

“It entices people to come and visit Yardley, helps with marketing of the town,” said Councilman David Appelbaum.

But another resident who lives next to a rental unit expressed concern at the meeting about “unintended consequences even with good owners.” A renter’s dog ended up in her yard and another renter didn’t know how to operate a stove correctly, leading to a gas issue. Trash being put out when it shouldn’t be was another problem as well as traffic and parking issues.

“My property value,” she said, was a major concern with the ongoing rentals of the home next door. “How many people in Yardley Borough really want this,” she asked. “It’s a revolving door of strangers…It will change the whole character of the town.”

She worried that the regulations developed for an ordinance wouldn’t be enforced.

Councilwoman Michelle Sharer said Yardley is “a beautiful little town” and she said that longtime residents may feel they have to move if a neighboring home became a rental – “if you have neighbors constantly changing.”

Sharer asked if the topic could be put to voter referendum but Thompson said she didn’t think state regulations would allow it to be put on a ballot. Councilman Jared Stump said he also had a short-term rental unit near his house and welcomed the idea of his parents being able to come for a visit and stay there. But he too had concerns if too many rental units opened in the town, even in the commercial district.

Councilman Don Carlson, who researched ordinances from other towns and received input from planners and other experts, said multiple factors should be considered, including whether the building is owner-occupied, the number of short-term rentals to be allowed in residential and/or commercial zones, the minimum number of days per stay, and how many guests are allowed in each unit based on the number of bedrooms.

Other issues are how many other guests who aren’t staying over can be in the building, insurance and inspections required and how the regulations would be enforced.

Thompson said an enforceable ordinance would help address the concerns with short-term rentals. She said at the end of the evening that she didn’t think the ordinance would be ready for advertisement and a public hearing until the end of the year.

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