Airbnb won’t be coming to town, zoning officer says
Looks like Ridgefield won’t be an Airbnb destination anytime soon.
The $30-billion online platform — designed to facilitate short-term rentals between homeowners and travelers at lower rates than those offered by hotels — has been growing in major cities over the past half-decade.
It hasn’t been an easy ride.
Hotel corporations, as well as traditional bed-and-breakfasts, have spoken publicly against the service, arguing that — with Airbnb — homeowners are able to bypass regulations that hotels and inns must follow.
Ridgefield is no different.
According to the Zoning Enforcement Officer Richard Baldelli, allowing an individual to stay at a private residence for fewer than 30 days for compensation is considered a bed-and-breakfast under town regulations — whether or not breakfast is served — and requires a special permit.
“We look at it as, we don’t allow short-term leases, but we do allow bed-and-breakfasts,” he said. “Essentially, it requires a special permit.”
Those wishing to use the platform need to apply for a bed-and-breakfast permit — two have been granted in Ridgefield.
Baldelli said the town usually receives one Airbnb complaint a year, which launches an investigation of all the Ridgefield listings on the site.
But they check on it only after receiving a written complaint.
Baldelli told The Press Tuesday, April 18, that there’s no urge to change the regulations.
“They could change it if they wanted to, but we’ve had problems with Airbnb usage,” he said.
“People using it as a frat house, ripping up the neighborhood, big beer parties all weekend long.”
Going through the process of an application makes those kinds of problems a slim possibility, according to Baldelli.
“We look at things from a public health, welfare, and safety perspective,” he said.
“When you’re renting to someone on a short-term basis, besides the fact you have no clue who they are …. Are the right smoke alarms in the room? Is there any kind of an emergency light set up if something happens and you need to get out?”
Baldelli said the regulations allow for these kinds of protections, whereas Airbnb offers “no standard whatsoever.”
But applying for a bed-and-breakfast permit requires time and money.
Airbnb has positioned itself as an easy, cost-effective alternative to hotels, so for a private residence to acquire a bed-and-breakfast permit to be on the platform could be counterproductive.
The taxes bed-and-breakfasts are required to pay to the town might also be another deterrent for individuals who are just looking to rent their homes.