West Tisbury looks to fill short-term rental committee

Town officials are seeking up to three more members for a committee to draft rules and regulations for their recently -approved short-term rental bylaw.

West Tisbury voters approved the short-term rental bylaw in April. —Sam Houghton

West Tisbury officials plan to post openings for up to three positions on a rules and regulations short-term rental committee. This follows voters approving the town’s short-term rental bylaw in April.

The town select board on Wednesday tasked the committee with drafting rules and regulations for the short-term rental bylaw, including recommending a fee structure for short-term rental applications.

The board also gave the committee’s four members the go-ahead to begin meeting, and set a seven-member maximum for the committee, so that its current members amount to a quorum. 

Appointed to the committee are the town planning board’s John Rau and Bea Phear, real estate broker Karen Overtoom, and Sheila Morris. All served on the short-term rental committee that drafted the bylaw.

Under the bylaw — meant to limit corporations purchasing town properties and renting them on Airbnb and other online services — owners can utilize just one property as a short-term rental, must live in the property at least 30 days a year, and on Airbnb, must rent the property at least two nights at a time.

Phear on Wednesday outlined the tasks ahead of the fledgling committee.

As the bylaw requires short-term rentals to register with the town annually, Phear said the committee would design an application procedure, and recommend to the select board an application fee. 

Town administrator Jen Rand suggested the committee research how much towns of similar size charge for applications, and present to the board a range of possible fees.

Phear also said the committee could look into web-based services that compile and analyze short-term rental postings online. 

“The tasks I see as needing to be done are research into what’s available in terms of these commercial outfits that do tech service for communities around short-term rentals … finding out what exactly they do and how much they charge, and whether they would be appropriate for us,” Phear said.

Phear added that the committee might recommend rules and regulations around parking, signage, and advertising for short-term rentals, as well as property owners securing liability insurance for rentals.

Select board members expressed interest in asking Laura Silber, Island housing planner at the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, to advise the committee as a nonmember. Silber, a town resident, had indicated interest in serving on the committee, but select board members thought she should instead be a nonvoting participant, due to her paid position at the commission.

No committee meetings are scheduled yet, but Phear said they will hold open meetings and publicly post times in advance.