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Public hearing on short-term rentals in Providence gets no response

October 25th, 2012 Posted in Opinion

By Dani Hayes

PROVIDENCE – A public hearing regarding short-term property rentals drew no citizen attendance at a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Wednesday, even though the issue was hotly debated in September.

“I guess they just didn’t care to have a voice in the matter,” said Skarlet Bankhead, city administrator. “I thought there was going to be  interest both ways. I thought people would show up from the community to make sure that the council wouldn’t allow short-term rentals.”

Brandan Hadlock approached the commission in September wanting to rent his home in Providence using a short-term lease, which is described by the commission as a rental period of 30 days or less. The issue was debated and a public hearing was scheduled. The absence of citizens at the hearing was unexpected but provided some insight into how the community may feel about the issue.

“If there were multiple people in the city who felt strongly about this issue, they would probably be here,” said commission member Jeff Baldwin.

“I think this shows that people have confidence in the planning commission,” Bankhead said. “They have a certain amount of faith in the commission.”

Reasons for the no-show may vary but Bankhead suggests perhaps many citizens are unaware, or simply don’t understand how municipal government works.

“Unfortunately I think sometimes people don’t understand that a public hearing in early planning for ordinances is so important,” she said. “When a result of a decision starts to be seen, if the neighbors don’t like it, the time to come to talk to us about it is past.”

The zoning regulation to prohibit any short-term rental in Providence passed unanimously, with he commission agreeing that it would not be suitable for the community.

“If we were more of a resort community, of like 60 percent of rentals, there would probably be more of a place for that,” Baldwin said. “I understand that there is a huge financial benefit with a short-term rental, but on the other side, they create a major headache for the neighbors.”

One of the arguments Hadlock voiced was the right of a homeowner to maximize the value of their property, and he believed he could do that through short-term renting.

“There’s a delicate balance between enabling home owners to do what they want with their property and the right of the neighborhood to feel comfortable in the community,” said commission member Garrett Walker.


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