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12-5-17 Council Meeting: Proposed House Rental Ordinance

Excerpts from a letter by Martin Romeril being circulated by Bethlehem Homeowners Association:

I am trying to get a resident or two from each of the city’s eighteen residential neighborhoods to come speak during the second courtesy of the floor (which is near the beginning of the meeting….no need to stay for hours to speak your peace…).  Can you contact anyone you know in one or two areas and see if they will come to City Council on December 5th to support regulating these businesses? There might be corporate lawyers from the home sharing industry there to try and limit our efforts to regulate this commercial activity in residential neighborhoods.

The issue at hand is a city ordinance to regulate “transient rentals” (a term describing a commercial activity which is defined in the city’s zoning code) in residential neighborhoods. There is a potential loophole in the proposed ordinance that residents currently living near operating “Internet hotels” hope to get closed through an amendment: The proposed ordinance as currently written allows up to thirty days of renting out an entire house in a residential neighborhood.

Technically this could allow up to fifteen weekends of whole house rentals, where those renting could have parties, with unlimited numbers of guests coming and going at all hours of the night. Currently such parties (usually wedding parties, but possibly also prom parties, graduation parties or sporting event/alumni parties), take place in hotels, who have hired security to make sure other guests (think “residents” because these “hotel” rooms are coming to your neighborhood…). These hired, professional security personnel keep things quiet in the hotel’s interior “neighborhood” (the adjoining rooms, including those on different floors of the building). These transient rental hotels will be renting out to groups of people, and there will be no “staff” or “hotel security” in sight. Think fifteen music-festival weekends in the house closest to your bedroom window. Maybe if the police have nothing else to do in the city on a given night, they can drive by within a couple hours of your call to complain of rowdy behavior after midnight. Oh, and forget about residential street parking when there is a party hose operating next door.

We are hoping to get a minimum seven day stay for whole house rentals written into the ordinance (as an amendment). Boarding/Rooming houses (which is a commercial activity NOT allowed in residential neighborhoods) currently has a seven day minimum stay already written into our completely revised zoning code (…), so my neighbors, who are not happy about having a hotel plopped down next to their residence, do not think this is an unreasonable request.

It would be beneficial to the peace and security of all residential neighborhoods to include a whole house rental time limitation amendment in the proposed ordinance.

12-13-17 Council Meeting: Climate Action Plan

Bethlehem City Council will be holding a public meeting on December 13, 2017 at 6 PM to lay out the next steps of its Climate Action Plan (CAP) development process. City Council President J. William Reynolds invites you to attend, if at all possible, and asks that you please spread the word to anyone else who may be interested.

It will be an exciting event as we discuss what the City has already accomplished and how we are going to move forward. The City Administration is continuing to work on existing climate initiatives including gathering energy baseline data for city operations and will provide an update at the meeting as well. CAP Participation opportunities: The December 13th town hall will also include a discussion of CAP public participation process and options for citizens to get directly involved in the climate action planning process in 2018.