ROBBINSVILLE, NJ –  Local homeowners will not be able to list their properties for short-term rentals, such as through the popular Airbnb service, if a recently proposed ordinance is passed by the Robbinsville Township Council.  

On October 24, the Township Council introduced an ordinance that would ban all “transient accommodations” defined in state law as “a room, group of rooms, or other living or sleeping space for lodging of occupants, including, but not limited to residences or buildings used as residences.” 

The state law does not apply to listing by real estate agents or brokers. However, municipalities are allowed to impose fees and taxes on local rental properties, in addition to state sales and use tax, if they were to permit use and collect the taxes. 

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The ordinance was introduced after a presentation to the Council by the Robbinsville Economic Development Advisory Commission (EDAC) on October 10 which provided background information on the topic and issues relative to the issue.  

Councilman Dan Schuberth, who serves as liaison to EDAC, said the group's policy subcommittee began researching the issue to ensure that the township “is striking the right balance between being business friendly and responsible to our residents.” He noted that there was a short-term rental property in town that has raised some concerns, particularly since it was located within an age-restricted community.

“There were some concerns in the neighborhood about lack of regulation which led us to do some soul searching as to whether or not we wanted this to be something we allow in Robbinsville,” said Schuberth.

Elizabeth Meyers, vice-chairperson of EDAC, presented the group's research and recommendations to the Council.   

Meyers said items the committee considered included whether the town should institute a complete ban on rentals or allow rentals with restrictions; impose a local tax on rentals; set a minimum and maximum number of days on the rentals; require registration rentals with the police and fire departments; mandate notification of neighbors if the property will be rented; and other factors.

“Over a six-month period, we looked at what other towns were doing. What works for Robbinsville, if anything. Ultimately, the point that we got to was looking at what would be our targeted renter that we would be okay with as a community,” said Meyers.  

Council President Rob Witt noted that “the real crux of the issue is that when you’re buying a home, you’re buying it to live in it.

“AirbnBb is not in the spirit of what people buy in a development for, nor do you expect to see that usage in a development,” added Witt.

Also present at the council meeting was Robbinsville Police Chief Chis Nitti who said he would be more “concerned with how many people are staying in that house.” 

EDAC member Joe Markowitz spoke to the council about his experience with a short-term rental next to his house.

“We didn’t know there was an Airbnb when we moved in,” said Markowitz.  “What’s happened in every case, but one, is that people rented it for a party. They showed up on a Saturday morning with 30 cars on the street. Around midnight I would call the police for a noise violation, and it was terrible.”

Tom Catalano, also an EDAC member, noted to the Council that the committee’s research found that large hotels such as Marriott are considering getting into the short-term business rental arena.

“What does this going unregulated and getting out of control do to our new hotels. Does their occupancy drop?” Catalano said of EDAC’s deliberation of an ordinance. “There’s a lot of things the committee came across that we felt we needed to get ahead of whether we limit it or ban it.”

“I do think we should probably address (it) before it gets too far out there,” said Councilman Vince Calcagno about the need to address short-term rentals within the Township.

Mayor Dave Fried expressed concern with the administrative burden on the Township of overseeing transient accommodations.

“I don’t believe that the tax revenue will ever justify the amount of possibilities from the perspective of trying to handle enforcements. The last thing was want to do is start having to hire staff to manage all of the possible combinations of what people may or may not want to do,” said Fried.  “I just keep thinking of the domino effect.”

“You see a hotel or motel and you have an understanding of what that means to the general surroundings,” said Witt. “It’s a wild age now.  People are renting out their own cars now. It’s whatever you can make a dollar on.”  

The public hearing on the rental ban will take place Thursday night during the Township Council meeting beginning at 7:00 pm at the Robbinsville Municipal Building located at 2298 Route 33. 

After taking input from the public, Township Council are expected to cast votes in support of or against the initiative. 

Editor’s Note:   TAPinto Hamilton/Robbinsville editor, Elizabeth Meyers, serves as vice-chairperson of EDAC and chairs the policy subcommittee which researched the issue.

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