STOCKTON SPRINGS — The Select Board discussed short-term rentals in town, took action to dispose of some town-owned property and heard about the hiring of a new ambulance director at its Oct. 7 meeting.

This was the board’s first meeting since its final community listening session on the issue of STRs. Town Manager Mac Smith said he had consulted with town attorney Edmund Bearor, who said the town can allow STRs in certain areas of town and not others, but any existing STRs would have to be grandfathered.

Board members discussed the idea of starting with a voluntary registry, to be developed and maintained by STR owners themselves and shared with the Town Office. Of the three members, Betsy Bradley and Marsha Shute supported the voluntary registry, while Darren Shute said his reading and research had led him to think a voluntary registry would not work and registration should be required. “Short-term rentals are going to be something we’re going to have to address real quick,” he said.

Bradley moved to forgo developing an ordinance for now, encourage a voluntary registry that would be reviewed in mid-January for possible action on an ordinance at the 2022 town meeting and, if no action is taken then, revisit the question at the first meeting after next year’s town meeting in June. It passed unanimously.

Several residents spoke about the issue. John Vallely asked whether the town would be able to regulate STRs that registered voluntarily, if residents eventually pass an STR ordinance. Bradley explained that all STRs would have to comply with any applicable ordinances. Registration would simply show that an STR had existed at a given property prior to the ordinance, and therefore that the owners had a right to continue to have an STR there.

Another resident asked how many STRs currently exist in town. He went on to say he was concerned that the number of STRs in town might burgeon between now and mid-January, and many of them might not register.

Paul Barclay, an STR owner, replied that he and Jessika Brooks Brewer, another STR owner in town, had checked Vacation Rentals By Owner and Airbnb and had counted between 30 and 35 STRs in Stockton Springs. Brewer and Barclay have set up a closed Facebook group for STR owners in town and are promoting a set of “good neighbor” policies they hope all STR owners will adopt to show consideration for their fellow Stocktonites.

Barclay went on to say that 24 or 25 owners in town had already joined the Facebook group and that STR owners want to be good neighbors and avoid the need for the town to regulate them.

Bradley noted that the voluntary registry would get the process of creating a registry started.

Vallely said a potential problem with a voluntary registry was that property owners who do not currently have STRs could register so that, if they sold their home in the future, there would be a grandfathered right to have an STR there. Barclay responded that his group was only admitting current STR owners. Smith pointed out that the town could use criteria in addition to participation in a voluntary registry to determine who was entitled to be grandfathered under any future STR ordinance, for example, state lodging tax records.

Darren Shute reminded those present that the process of developing and passing an ordinance can take two to three years, adding that he thought that process could be beneficial to everyone in the community. “We will do our very best to make it a benefit for all sides,” he said.

In other business, the board reviewed a list of town-owned property, divided into landlocked — that is, parcels that lack a means of access — and non-landlocked, and voted to authorize Smith to put six landlocked parcels up for bid after contacting the abutters as to whether they were interested in purchasing them. One parcel of 17 acres on Cape Jellison Road was determined not to be landlocked after all, and another, of 1.87 acres on Route 1 with frontage on the water, the board decided to retain for now. The non-landlocked parcels will be considered at a future meeting.

Darren Shute reported that he and Public Works Director George Russell had reviewed the three bids to install heat pumps at the Town Office and found that only one of the three matched what the town had requested. They will have new quotes from the other two bidders at the next meeting, he said.

During the workshop after the formal meeting, Smith announced that Amy Drinkwater has been hired as the town’s new ambulance director, a part-tme position. Drinkwater, who lives in Belfast, told The Republican Journal Oct. 8 that she has served as full-time ambulance director in St. George for the last eight years. She has also had part-time positions as EMS director in Thomaston and South Thomaston in recent years, which she will continue to hold. She started the Stockton Springs job Oct. 1, and said the previous director, Ken Folette Jr., is continuing to help with the transition. She said recruiting crew members is challenging for many towns, and the difficulty is increased by the requirement for crew members to be vaccinated against COVID-19. She added that she was glad to be part of an EMS service in Waldo County. “It’s nice to be able to help back where I live.”

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