Wilton considering regulating short-term rentals, like Airbnb

The fate of short-term rentals in town, like those listed on Airbnb, will be up for discussion after a complaint signed by 26 neighbors was sent to the town.

The fate of short-term rentals in town, like those listed on Airbnb, will be up for discussion after a complaint signed by 26 neighbors was sent to the town.

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WILTON — Rob Saffi, a resident on Bald Hill Road, recently saw several large television trucks set up filming at a fairly new short-term rental down the street — one of the latest concerns he and neighbors have with the house.

It's an issue Saffi, along with 25 neighbors, hope can be stopped with the town restricting, or outright barring short-term rentals, such as Airbnb, in town — a proposal the Planning and Zoning Commission is currently discussing.

“I am writing to implore you and the other leaders of this town to take action and shut down this production, stop these short-term rentals, and help preserve the values of this town and neighborhood, so that we aren’t marketed and sold anymore as a ‘neighborhood experience,’ but are able to give our children the neighborhood experience that we’ve been proud to foster on Bald Hill Road,” Saffi wrote in a letter to First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice that was signed by 25 neighbors.

Not all residents support this measure, though.

Emily Hamlin wrote to the town just one week after Saffi, noting that she moved to Wilton from Costa Rica after falling in love with the town following her own Vrbo stay in 2017. She extended her original lease from two to seven months after being smitten with the neighborhood, and eventually purchased a home on Wolfpit Road close to where her rental was.

Since, Hamlin said she has been an Airbnb host, having hosted 15 stays over the last three-plus years. Most of her stays, she said, are within the three-to-five week period and enforcing some rental minimum stay period would affect her greatly. She said that she is “deeply invested” in the outcome and equally invested in helping the town find a workable solution.

Town Planner Michael Wrinn said the commission is now discussing how to handle short-term rentals because of Saffi’s letter. “And not just a small rental with a few people, but parties and that type of thing — so that’s what drove this,” Wrinn said.

The Planning and Zoning Commission did not comment on the issue of the alleged television production at its recent meeting, but discussed how it could regulate these short-term rentals in town. Numerous members of the board were dissuaded, though, from outright barring these endeavors.

“I think what we should be cautious with is, we don’t want to prevent people from exploring these businesses and allowing people to come and see the town,” P&Z Commissioner Melissa-Jean Rotini said.

Rotini said the town is trying to advertise its shops and restaurants and attract more tourism — part of the main focus of the current Wilton Center Master Plan process.

Commissioner Christopher Pagliaro said bluntly that he doesn’t think he would be in favor of prohibiting these short-term rental spaces as he didn’t deem it fair and he didn’t believe Wilton to be “above all the places in the world that have them.”

He did, however, suggest an allowance of these rental spaces under permit with a possibility for renewal year over year as long as the rental owners/operators are acting in good faith and in accordance with a set of agreed-upon guidelines.

“I think we hear from the public, and then from that point, develop what direction we want to go in,” Town Planner Wrinn said to the commission.