CONWAY – Just over 40 percent of Conway’s noise complaints this spring and summer have come from short-term rentals, according to the police chief, adding that no fines have been imposed.
On April 13, residents of the city voted overwhelmingly to pass a noise ordinance proposed by elected officials. However, city voters rejected other articles that would have allowed short-term rentals in residential areas. Now, the city is seeking a class action declaratory judgment from Carroll County Superior Court stating that non-owner STRs are not permitted in residential areas of Conway. The city’s lawsuit says there are more than 500 members of the class. About 10 percent of Conway’s housing stock, including single-family homes, mobile homes and condos, is used for short-term rentals.
Responding to a request from the Sun on how the new noise ordinance would work, Police Chief Chris Mattei said in an email that since May 1 there have been 65 audio calls. Of these, 28 (43%) were from short-term rentals.
“We have had to respond to five short-term rental homes more than once, on different occasions, for noise reports,” Mattei said. “No citation was written because we did not have to return to a house for the same group of people after receiving the first warning.”
The scale of fines set by selectmen dictates that the fine after the first written violation is $ 100. A second violation would be $ 250 and a third violation would be $ 500.
What constitutes a violation, according to the ordinance, is to make “any excessive or loud, unusual or other unnecessary noise, or any noise which annoys, disturbs, injures or is likely to endanger comfort, rest, health, peace or safety of others within the city limits. “
Noise may include “the operation, playback or use of any audio equipment, sound amplifier or other device that reproduces or amplifies sound”.
Other noises, such as dumpsters, chainsaws, lawn mowers and jackhammers between 10 p.m. and 7 p.m. are also included in the order.
Contacted for comment, the president of the Washington Valley Association for Responsible Vacation Rental, David Cavanaugh, found it encouraging that the majority of complaints did not come from busy STRs.
“More importantly, the 28 complaints resulted in a single warning and never a follow-up complaint,” Cavanaugh said. “This is a signal that our RTS members and owners are bringing their voices to guests to ensure they are complying with responsible behavior and good neighborly policies.”
He said they knew “a handful of STR owners” who have received repeated calls over time. “We will continue to monitor ourselves within our membership and expand to all known DOSs in town,” Cavanaugh said.
Meanwhile, in Madison, the town planning council is also considering regulating short-term rentals. A noise ordinance was discussed at its meeting on Wednesday.
“We don’t have a noise ordinance right now, but it’s something we should start with,” said Philip LaRoche, replacing the planning board.
Madison Selectman Josh Shackford, who retired as Freedom’s chief of police earlier this year, was skeptical of the possibility of enforcing a noise ordinance.
“I’d like to know how many summons have been written from Conway’s noise ordinance,” Shackford said. “It is impossible to enforce, by law, completely impossible.”
Mattei had a different opinion.
“I think the ordinance can be enforced because our selection committee took the appropriate steps in order to promulgate the ordinance,” Mattei said.