Waterford: A 15,000-square-foot home on Waterview Drive was the center of conversation during a public comment period on short-term rentals at the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting at City Hall on Tuesday.
Six of the seven residents who spoke expressed frustration with the city’s response to their concerns about the property at 9 Waterview Drive, owned by businessman Shahriar Rahman of Woodside, NY. He bought the house for $849,900 in April 2021, according to land records.
The sheer number of guests is part of the problem, residents said. Other complaints included excessive noise, cars parked inside the cul-de-sac, cars speeding up and down the small road, tour buses that barely fit at the circular end of the road, trespassers on the docks, and other residents’ property. and security issues. for the small children who live there.
With more than 7,300 square feet of living space alone, the expansive home, listed on the Airbnb.com website, features five bedrooms, four full bathrooms and three half bathrooms, an indoor half-court basketball gym, as well as a jacuzzi and sauna. Additional square footage includes an indoor lap pool, outdoor pool, and expansive sundeck. The listing indicates that it can accommodate 16 people and rents for $2,500 a night, with a discount for one-week stays.
The house is situated on the smaller of two ponds in the Twin Lakes neighborhood in a section of the city known as Waterford Village.
Rahman said by phone on Wednesday: “I bought it for my family to travel and get away during COVID. We were in lockdown and I bought the house to surprise them.”
He said, “By the grace of God, with my businesses still going, I was able to make that happen,” and he likes “knowing that whenever I need to escape, I have it there.”
Rahman, who referred to himself as an entrepreneur, said he owns businesses in the “technology and health care” industries and operates a nonprofit organization. He added that he frequently travels abroad, especially to Europe, where he is buying properties. A search of public records shows that in addition to the Waterview Drive property, he also owns four single-family and multi-family properties in Norwich.
He acknowledged that a movie was shot at the Waterford house.
“During one day, there were a bunch of movie trucks and stuff all over the block,” but he said there was ample parking in the driveway, and that was the only problem he was aware of.
No guarantees from the city
The Planning and Zoning Commission was the fourth city panel to which residents raised concerns about short-term rentals; the others were the Municipal Representative Assembly, the Board of Councillors, and the Board of Police Commissioners.
Planning and Zoning President Gregory Massad said, “There’s no guarantee that we’ll address this as an issue, or that we’ll be able to do anything about it, but we’d like to take the time to listen to your concerns.”
Theodore Olynciw, an RTM member who lives on Twin Lakes Drive, which abuts Waterview Drive, told the commission that RTM’s Standing Committee on Development, Planning and Public Works, of which he is a member, discussed the issue “in great detail ” at their June meeting. 15 meeting, and he is willing to work with Planning and Zoning to create new regulations or ordinances.
“It’s a single-family home. It’s nothing else. It’s not a motel, it’s not a hotel. It’s a single-family residence,” Olynciw said, adding that he believes because of the large number of guests renting the property, it falls under the city’s hotel regulation, which would require a permit. He concluded by asking the commission to take action based on the lack of a permit, saying the property is not being operated as a single-family home.
Chuck Primus, also of Twin Lakes Drive, told the commission he believes he has the authority to regulate the property under current zoning regulations.
“The house on Waterview Drive is in blatant disregard of this city’s regulations, your own, for which you are authorized and responsible,” he said. “Not enforcing that is a really interesting topic.”
No state legislation
At the June 15 RTM Standing Committee meeting, City Attorney Nicholas Kepple said there are an estimated 60 to 80 short-term rentals in Waterford, and “from my point of view, even though we have zoning regulations and Although we have a body of ordinances, there is no state legislation on short-term rentals, and I am of the opinion that there is essentially nothing in Waterford that regulates it.”
Kepple said many of the residents’ concerns are “actionable” under the current body of law, and the city arguably doesn’t need new regulations. He cautioned that if the city were to create regulations, he should consider affected people, including rental property owners and neighbors.
Waterford Police Chief Marc Balestracci said by phone Wednesday that the police department had received two noise complaints at the Waterview Drive property. He said that when officers arrived for one of the complaints, the noise “couldn’t be localized; they didn’t hear it.” Of the other complaint, he said: “The police responded, they asked people to turn down the volume and go inside, and they did, and that solved the problem.”
“The noise, the trespassing, the parking, the speeding — these are things we can deal with, with or without any kind of ordinance on Airbnbs,” Balestracci said.
Residents also spoke before the Board of Aldermen on May 3, resulting in a letter from First Alderman Robert Brule to Michael Rocchetti, RTM member and chair of the RTM standing committee, and Massad, chair of the Planning and Zoning.
Brule wrote in the letter, dated May 31, that the concerns expressed “raise the overarching question of whether and how the Town should respond to this activity throughout our community.”
He requested that both municipalities use their public hearings to get community input “on this important but complicated issue of balancing property rights with neighbor concerns.”
a vacation home
In response to neighbors’ claims that he has never lived at the Waterview Drive property, Rahman said he has stayed there “for weeks straight,” but clarified those weeks were not consecutive because it is a vacation home. He said his last stay at the house was in the spring and that he recently hosted a prom for a friend’s daughter at the property. He noted that he is often used by his family or his employees, including some who work remotely, which may explain much of the perceived rental usage.
He said his attorneys “double-checked” and determined there were no zoning regulations against renting the house. He said he made changes to limit any issues, including adding security cameras and a 6-foot privacy fence, and blocking the gate that allows access to the adjacent pond and unfenced areas of the property to prevent guests accidentally enter neighbors’ yards.
Additionally, Rahman said he raised the property’s rental price to reduce the frequency of rentals.
“I’m going to increase it even more just to reduce occupancy. That’s what I’m trying to do,” he said, but added that he would “spend more money than we make on this property just to fight” complaints from neighbors. , which says they are false.
The Planning and Zoning Commission has not said whether it will take action on the matter, but the RTM Standing Committee on Public Works, Planning and Development will have its third meeting on the issue on July 13 at 7 p.m. in City Hall’s Appleby Room.