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Conway Goes to Court to Limit Airbnbs, Other Short-Term Rentals

An aerial view of the Conway area
conwaynh.org
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In its court filing, the town estimates "more than 500" short-term rental operators are in violation of its zoning ordinances.
conwayvillage.jpg
Credit Dan Houde/Wiseguy Creative via Pinterest
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The town of Conway is taking its ongoing battle against short-term rentals to court. The move comes amid a heated debate about the role of Airbnbs and other vacation properties in the Mount Washington Valley.

Town officials say the growth of these properties in residential neighborhoods has brought increased noise complaints and other disturbances. Others say the rentals allow out-of-towners to chip away at an already limited supply of housing for local families.

Conway residents voted in April to reject new rules explicitly permitting short-term rentals in single-family residential areas, but they also voted to give the select board the power to regulate and license short-term rentals. Since then, as chronicled by the Conway Daily Sun, it remains unclear when or how the town would move forward with that regulation.

In its newly filed court petition, Conway isn’t asking the court to shut down local short-term rentals operating in residential neighborhoods. Instead, it’s asking the court to confirm that the town has the power to do that.

Conway's town manager did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday. Attorney Russ Hilliard, who’s representing the town in this case, said that the goal is to make it easier for the town to issue cease and desist letters or pursue other enforcement actions to shut down rentals that violate its zoning rules.

“It’s just that there’s so many hundreds of these that it’s inefficient to handle them on an individual basis,” Hilliard said.

Conway's petition singles out one local short-term rental owner, Scott Kudrick, but makes clear the intention is to target “more than 500” people it believes are breaking its zoning rules. Kudrick, who lives in Portsmouth and owns several vacation properties in the Conway area, previously served on the town’s short-term rental study committee. He said regulating these properties, not banning them, would be a better approach.

"I think it’s an important right to be able to rent your vacation home and has been a long-held tradition in our community for generations," Kudrick wrote in an email to NHPR. "Losing this ability could have a negative effect on all homeowners, even those that do not currently rent, as well as have a much larger impact with unintended consequences to the entire valley."

David Cavanaugh, who leads a newly formed advocacy group called the Mt. Washington Association for Responsible Vacation Rentals, said he welcomed the court filing because it will give him and other out-of-town owners a bigger platform to weigh in on the debate over short-term rentals in Conway.

"We can't vote because we're not registered there," Cavanaugh said. "We're registered, of course, at our primary residences. So this is the first time that we're able to have our voices heard."

Editor's note: A previous version of this story misstated the outcome of a recent town vote regarding short-term rentals. The story has been updated to correct that information.

Casey McDermott is an editor and reporter at New Hampshire Public Radio, where she works with colleagues across the newsroom to deepen the station’s accountability coverage, data journalism and audience engagement across platforms.

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