Plymouth Selectboard discusses short-term rental regulations

Members of the Plymouth Fire Department beginning the paper work for a new fire truck. Photo by Angela Kissell.

PLYMOUTH, Vt. – At last Monday night’s Plymouth Selectboard meeting, board member Rick Kaminski reviewed Sheriff Palmer’s plan for shared community policing. He told those in attendance at the March 20 meeting that the Sheriff’s department had agreed the total cost would not exceed the town budget amount of $60,000. “They had an hourly rate in our previous contract,” said Kaminski. “But in the new contract they will charge a lump sum of $5,000 per month. They will track their hours and give us an itemized record of time spent and mileage.” Kaminski also mentioned that there were provisions in the contract that will allow the town to make amendments as they move forward and assess the needs of the town.

The Plymouth Fire Department received long-awaited approval to purchase a new truck at a cost of $491,000. Board chair Jay Kullman said he’d make a note on the next meeting’s agenda to follow up with the board regarding financing, but signed off on the amount. Fire Chief Kirk Turner said the process of purchasing the new truck will take up to two years to finalize.

Regarding the appointment of a town clerk, Kullman reported that they had narrowed the choice down to two final candidates and would make their decision by the end of the week. Kaminski mentioned they had received a good amount of qualified applicants, and were currently running background checks on the finalists.

Kullman moved the discussion to the topic of short term rentals, and the ordinance requiring KnoxBox installations, and rental insurance. The board considered a mandatory requirement that any short term rental properties must have a rental endorsement provision in place within their homeowner’s insurance policy.

Plymouth resident Adriana Curutchet introduced herself saying, “I have lived in the area for 30 years full-time. There are a couple of issues here. I was under the impression that this was an issue we [voters] express our opinion on through voting. And, now you are presenting an amendment, which you have the right to do, but I think it’s our right as homeowners to know that you are doing this. Insurance is very important. It basically means that somebody else is looking at what’s going on. Anyone that rents, even short-term, is doing business. So, I would like to see at least commercial insurance. You call it a waiver, or call it whatever, but it has to be there.”

Curutchet mentioned some recent incidents that happened near her home, including one time the state police were called, and another where a fight occurred on her street in the middle of the night. “The quality of our living is not getting better,” Curutchet admitted to the board. “So, I really ask you guys, as much as you can control, you should look into that.”

Kaminski explained they were still in the middle of this discussion, and he and town administrators were planning to review the ordinance, then come back to the board and the town for further input.

Cappellini pointed out that the IRS does not consider a second home to be a business, and therefore the town could not legally enforce the requirement for the homeowner to purchase commercial liability insurance, if they choose to rent the property. There was further discussion regarding the difference between liability and commercial insurance, and Steve Radonis, one of two short-term rental administrators for the town, mentioned there were over 100 homes in Plymouth currently being rented.

The Knox Rapid Entry System, known as KnoxBox, is a secure emergency access program that allows firefighters and paramedics immediate entry into buildings and property without forced entry damage or delay.

“A KnoxBox,” Radonis reported. “Costs about $320, and is a one time investment. Without having to break the door down, [the fire department] can access the property in case of emergency.”

Some residents expressed concerns about the security of giving out the code, and Fire Chief Kirk Turner responded, “The only reason we would go to that house is if we were dispatched by 911. Sheriffs don’t have access, State Troopers don’t have access, the only people with access are this town’s fire department.”

Turner added, “Every firefighter has a personal code for a KnoxBox, so it is recorded as to who went into the home.”

Resident Bruce Pauley commented, “I don’t care if it’s $500, I want one. If something happens, I want to make damn sure someone will be there. Without a KnoxBox, the fire department might move on from that situation. They may show up and see nothing in their walk-around, but if they can get in they will go in and find something they didn’t see from looking in from the outside.”

Chief Turner said the department offers a service where a resident can purchase a box, and the fire department will help with installation. Turner said the department had sent out a notice about that program with a donation letter, and they could do that again.

Kaminski announced, “The highway department will be starting the Stickney Bridge project [Tuesday, March 28]. We’ll be closing one lane temporarily while we do some staging, then, from about April first to the fourth of July, we’ll have one lane closed.” Kaminski said traffic would be directed by a stop sign on one end, and a yield sign on the other.

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