By Michael P. Walsh
Special to the Voice
The Planning and Zoning Commission has adopted regulations to guide “Short-Term Rentals” in the city and “Outdoor Dining” at restaurants, P&Z Chairwoman Kathleen Hendricks announced.
“Both of these issues had come to the attention of the Planning and Zoning Commission in recent months, and the commission wanted to do something about them,” Hendricks said.
Recognizing that West Haven is a shorefront community, the commission is aware of the ongoing concern that city homeowners may seek to rent their property as a short-term rental, Hendricks said.
Short-term rentals include dwellings rented through such vacation rental websites as Airbnb and VRBO. The sites connect people offering residences or rooms with others who want to rent them for short-term stays.
“The commission recognizes individuals have a need to be flexible in meeting monthly housing expenses, but the commission is also committed to protecting residents of the neighborhoods in which such uses might occur,” Hendricks said. “The commission does not want to see overcrowding of residential streets and wants to protect residential character from being impacted by excessive turnover on local streets.”
Assistant City Planner David W. Killeen said the new regulation establishes an approval process for such uses and allows the usage in two residential districts and two commercial districts by “special use exception” approval through the Zoning Board of Appeals.
The regulation requires a seven-day minimum stay for rentals, limits occupancy, and defines space requirements for the short-term use.
“Owners must demonstrate they have sufficient parking to support these rentals as well,” Killeen said.
With regard to outdoor dining, many restaurants want to have a few tables in front of their businesses to help attract customers, which Hendricks said “the commission feels is good business, not only for the restaurant owner but the city as a whole.”
“Thriving communities often promote outdoor dining,” she said. “It improves the appearance of the community and encourages a relaxing setting to enjoy a good meal.”
The commission has had an existing regulation for outdoor dining but felt it was too restrictive and did not encourage outdoor dining opportunities, Killeen said.
The new regulation allows most restaurants to have two to four outdoor tables, provided owners can demonstrate to planning and zoning officials that they will retain sufficient areas for pedestrian circulation and that the outdoor dining will meet city codes. An annual registration is planned for that type of use, Killeen said.
For this year, however, restaurants may use the regulation informally without approval, he said.
The Department of Planning and Development will seek the approval of a registration process and set fees through the City Council in preparation for the regulation’s formal implementation in 2020.
For larger outdoor dining settings, restaurant owners must file a special permit application with the commission for approval. The special permit does not require an annual registration.
The regulations for short-term rentals and outdoor dining took effect Aug. 12. Copies are available for review in the planning and development office on the first floor of City Hall, 355 Main St.