New rental permit bylaw sparks series of hearings
AMHERST — More than a dozen property owners will go before the Zoning Board of Appeals over the next few months to revise or obtain special permits so they are in compliance with the town’s rental permitting bylaw.
These hearings begin Feb. 19, when the board will hold three related to making changes to previously approved parking plans.
Senior Planner Jeffrey Bagg, staff assistant to the board, said this was anticipated as part of the rental permit program, which started Jan. 1 and provides a way for the town to review conditions at rental properties.
“The goal is to identify changes or violations and work with an owner to bring their property into compliance either by correcting the violation or allowing an owner the opportunity to seek approval for these matters,” Bagg said.
To date, the town’s Conservation and Development Office has received about 750 applications for rental permits. There are an estimated 1,570 residential rental properties in town. The applications include a $100 fee, a self-certification checklist and a parking plan.
Building Commissioner Robert Morra said in an email that staff in the Conservation and Development Office is processing the applications and identifying potential violations. Before inspection services can issue a permit for a property with problems flagged, the property owner must either take steps to correct the issues or seek exceptions from the Zoning Board, Morra said.
“Many property owners have already eliminated violations or are in process of bringing their property into compliance,” he said.
So far 13 property owners intend to seek either new or amended special permits, Bagg said, for matters including parking plans, supplemental apartments and owner-occupancy requirements. The hearings for these will be spread out over the coming months so as not to overwhelm the Zoning Board, which normally has 30 to 40 permit hearings a year.
The hearings Feb. 19 all are related to parking.
In the first hearing, Priscilla White, the property owner at 318 Lincoln Ave., is seeking to modify a condition of a 2006 special permit that would formalize a reconfiguration of the four required parking spaces.
At the second hearing, for 473 Pine St., owner Truman Likens is asking to modify a condition of a 1986 special permit and increase the number of parking spaces from three to four.
Finally, Masoud Hashemi, who owns 100 Gray St., is requesting to modify conditions set by a 1985 special permit to increase the number of parking spaces from five to 11.
The Rental Implementation Committee is expected to meet at 3 p.m. Tuesday at Town Room in Town Hall to get a status update and discuss whether action will be needed to get more applications filed.