Ludlow Selectboard okays pursuing rental registry, town charter

LUDLOW, Vt. – During the Oct. 5 Selectboard meeting, the board gave the Ludlow Planning Commission their nod of approval to move forward with a rental registry in an effort to ensure adherence to fire and other safety standards. They will also move forward with a town charter.

The process of establishing a rental registry would take several years to have up and running so at this point the Planning Commission will just be looking at different ways to structure the registry and, eventually, how to enforce safety regulations, including fire safety inspections.

Local resident Eric Alden, who has been working with the Planning Commission on this issue, suggested they focus on all rentals, both long- and short-term, which the board agreed with.

The number of rentals in town is unknown with estimates spanning from a number of 527 to several thousand. Getting an idea of how many rentals there are in town will be another of the registry’s tasks.

Board member Justin Hyjek agreed wholeheartedly with the need for the registry. He also said that towns could do a lot of different things, like classifying rentals into different zones or having a tiered business license based on how many rental days for the property.

Rose Goings, Ludlow’s director of planning and zoning, attending the meeting via phone, said that one consideration would be the need for a full- or part-time person to be trained and certified as a fire marshal for the anticipated inspections. She said that any rental, even for one day, is considered a public building and her primary concern is for fire safety. Once the town is aware of safety issues, then the town can become liable. She also said that in Killington they have a rental registry in their area, but they don’t arrange the fire inspection. Instead, they have the owner check off that they are fire safety compliant.

Board Chairman Bruce Schmidt expressed his concern that one of the risks of doing a registry is unintentionally impacting mother-in-law apartments and other similar arrangements. He said they need to make sure that there is something that will fit both the town and the village.

Despite Schmidt’s misgivings, the board agreed to have the Planning Commission move forward with the project. Their next steps will be to come back with a proposal for review. Schmidt suggested that Hyjek attend a Planning Commission meeting to share some of his ideas.

The idea of establishing a town charter was again discussed at the meeting. Municipal Manager Scott Murphy suggested if the board wants to move forward with the idea, either a Town Charter Committee should be formed or the Selectboard themselves can start putting together some language for a lawyer to review. After that, the charter would need to be discussed in a public meeting at least 30 days before being voted on. A second meeting would then need to happen within 10 days after the first meeting.

The board agreed they have only one goal for a town charter, which is to give the board more control on determining voting options for different issues, either with a “vote on the floor” or by Australian ballot. The board has agreed to move forward with developing an official town charter for that reason.

A voter ballot drop box has been installed in front of the Ludlow town office building. Residents may place their ballot in the box without needing to come into building.

The next Ludlow Selectboard meeting is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 2 at 6 p.m.

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