Short-Term-Rental Bylaw Down to Details

            In order to preserve neighborhood character and maintain the distinct difference between investors who buy houses just to rent them out short term and those in the business of operating a rental establishment and also live on the premises, the Marion Planning Board is fine-tuning a bylaw on short-term rentals that it hopes will be recommended by the Select Board and voted for approval by residents at the Annual Town Meeting.

            “We kind of addressed all these things, I hope,” said Planning Board Vice Chairman Andrew Daniel during Monday night’s public meeting, alluding to a cap on how many permits the town will issue, a schedule for inspections and fines, an off-street parking requirement, etc. Daniel said feedback indicates a willingness across town to comply.

            Member Alanna Nelson was impressed with the detail in the proposals shared by the members assigned the task of drafting a bylaw, including Daniel and member Eileen Marum.

            In noting the similarity in his proposal to Marum’s, he suggested the group work off Marum’s draft and proposal additions that the board can discuss at its next meeting (February 20.) Board Chairman Tucker Burr agreed on one more discussion so that a public hearing can take place with a vote on March 4. March 19 is the last day to enter a warrant article for Town Meeting; the Planning Board also meets on March 18.

            Daniel estimates 42 residences are being rented on a short-term basis in Marion and suggested capping the limit at 100. Estimating 2,500 households in Marion, Nelson suggested basing the cap on a percentage of the number of households because it will change over time.

            Marum said that the draft will also be sent to the attorney general’s office. Town Planner Doug Guey-Lee suggested it first go to Town Counsel for review.

            The bylaw took shape in recent weeks after several Planning Board sessions involving discussion with residents and owners who rent their properties. On Monday, George Linzee, the inn keeper of the Silvershell Inn Bed & Breakfast at 460 Front Street and Eduardo Amaral, the sole proprietor at Marion Forge, 16 Inland Road, discussed the service they provide to visitors.

            Months ago, Planting Island resident Dianne Cosman spearheaded the discussion; she complimented Linzee and Amaral on their work and reiterated her concern about short-term rentals by absentee owners in Marion neighborhoods, including her own.

            The Planning Board held a public hearing on the proposed Zoning Bylaw Amendment to add Article XX (Chapter 230-20, Stormwater Management) MS4 to the warrant for the Annual Town Meeting scheduled for Monday, May 13.

            Meghan Davis, the engineering manager for the Marion Department of Public Works, explained that the bylaw amendment is meant to ensure compliance with federal laws where they concern the discharge of stormwater. She further explained that the MS4 program implemented in 1987 has been without a tangible way to manage the program and needs regulatory mechanisms.

            The purpose of the bylaw is to protect and maintain the safety of the public where it concerns stormwater. The Planning Board is the permitting authority and must approve such an amendment before it can go to Town Meeting floor.

            Marum complimented Davis on the amendment as presented in writing, saying, “we want the public to be aware that their actions on land impact what happens in our waters.” But Marum’s accompanying motion did not carry, and there ensued significant discussion.

            Davis said that the Environmental Protection Agency used the Neponset Valley Watershed as an example and that Marion’s bylaw will be more stringent.

            Nelson asked what kind of assistance or training is available for town elected officials to better understand the rules and regulations. Davis said she is more than happy to participate in drafting the regulations in collaboration with the board.

            Burr sought clarification, asking if the amendment would be replacing the town’s erosion-control bylaw. “So where is the existing bylaw coming up short?” he asked. “I’m hesitant to vote for this when the (state) requirement is a lot less stringent that what you just proposed.”

            Select Board member Norm Hills, in attendance Monday night, said the current erosion-control bylaw doesn’t address enough of the issues and is limited in its scope. Guey-Lee noted the amendment’s impact on land erosion and sedimentation.

            “I would like to see a letter saying exactly what it is we’re missing,” said Burr.

Marum suggested when all is said and done that the Planning Board issue a stormwater handbook.

            Daniel said that if there is no grandfather clause, many homeowners will suddenly find out they are out of compliance.

            Member Jon Henry recalled during his days working at Marion’s DPW some of the allowances that were made for some residents needing to use sump pumps in their basements.

            Henry identified Blankenship Cove and the Wareham side of River Road as areas where there are no systems in place. Residents on Hermitage Road complained about drainage. The cure would have been an expensive filtration device for which an engineering design was made for over $2,000,000, but the device was never manufactured.

            “If you connect to the town’s drainage system, then you’re going to have a tiger by the tail, and that’s just the way it is. And should be,” said Henry.

            Member Ryan Burke requested more specifics before he votes and suspects that town will not understand the bylaw amendment as written. “I don’t like the idea of going way more stringent than what the state’s recommending,” he said.

            Hills said that for the past two years Marion has been working with Massachusetts Maritime Academy, identifying all those discharges, and is working with them.

            Burr reiterated his own concerns about the situation suddenly becoming very costly to homeowners, especially within the 5,000 square feet of area prescribed. “And that’s regular Harry Homeowner. You have to pay all this just to resurface a portion of your property. … I think we’re already in compliance,” said Burr.

            “You have to have the data to prove we are in compliance,” said Marum.

            “I’m not making the claim,” said Burr, noting that MassDEP is making the claim.

            Davis said the town must have a bylaw.

            Henry noted that erosion is volume related, but the bylaw amendment being presented by Davis is quality related.

            In noting he and Davis have been working together with the Select Board on the matter, Guey-Lee said there is broad discretion handed over to the Planning Board and stressed that, “this (amendment) is a framework for a comprehensive bylaw.”

            Guey-Lee further explained that the key difference is the erosion-control bylaw only falls within the jurisdiction of the Conservation Commission. “And that’s a key part of this,” he said.

            Burr, Daniel and Burke were against voting for regulations more stringent than what is required by the state. Davis said the bylaw can take into consideration anything the Planning Board thinks is appropriate and said she would pass along the model the EPA provided.

            “These bylaws were supposed to be adopted in 2021, but the EPA has not flagged the Town of Marion. There was no direct correspondence telling us we’re out of compliance, but I’m just trying to get ahead of the game,” she said.

            The public hearing was continued to March 4 at 7:15 pm.

            “It’s time to eat the elephant one bite at a time and get us in compliance,” said Henry, noting the Clean Water Act was enacted in the 1960s, “and we’re still not in compliance. It takes a while to get these things done.”

            An abutter, Burr recused himself from the presubmission conference held with Sippican Holdings LLC for the construction of a proposed self-storage facility at 13 Barnabus Road on the former Lockheed Martin property zoned Limited Industrial.

            Presenting on the applicant’s behalf was Steve Gioiosa of SITEC, who opened by noting he appeared a month ago and was granted a Special Permit for the proposed use of the 2-acre property.

            Gioiosa said the applicant is also proceeding with the Conservation Commission, as the two-story, 20,000 square foot building on the site of an existing parking lot would be built within the 100-foot buffer zone to a bordering vegetated wetland.

            It will include upper-level access on the street side and lower-level on the opposite side, a 900 square foot office in the northeast corner of the building with access primarily off Highland Road. A circulating driveway will lead to the rear parking area and lower-level entrance and storage, emergency access and an exit drive on the far west end of the property.

            No exterior storage will be allowed per the lease agreement, and no motor-vehicle storage will be allowed.

            At Nelson’s suggestion, Gioiosa said he would ask the building designers to add an ADA-compliant entry to the back as well as the front of the building.

            Marum requested that project designers look at options to include solar panels on the roof.

            The continued public hearing for Matt Zuker’s 48-unit, townhouse-style, residential complex at 78 Wareham Road was once again continued at the applicant’s request, this time to March 4 at 7:10 pm. “This hearing has been continued many, many times, and I think they should get on with it,” said Marum.

            The next meeting of the Marion Planning Board is scheduled for Tuesday, February 20, at 7:00 pm at the Police Station on Route 6.

Marion Planning Board

By Mick Colageo

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