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Chestnuthill hears concerns over short-term rentals

Published July 19. 2019 12:54PM

Chestnuthill Township held a public hearing on short-term rentals on Tuesday. The municipal building was filled, and the focus of short-term rentals was on Airbnb in particular.

The overwhelming majority of the attendees were against short-term rentals due to Air­bnb renters disturbing the peace in residential areas. There were, however, some attendees who vouched for Airbnb.

“I’m not sleeping because of this,” Matthew Laxton said in reference to Airbnb in his neighborhood. “I wake up at 5 o’clock every morning to go to work. I’m getting like three hours of sleep to go to work for 40 hours a week.”

“You’ve heard all these stories about these short-term rentals,” Edward Yost said. “There’s one right across the street from me, and I could tell you, they advertise on the internet that it could sleep 18 to 20 people.

“One of the last groups were playing beer pong in the front yard. Many times they get in arguments in the middle of the night. You can’t ask to be calling the state police. That puts us in a bad position. You’re making us enforce this.”

Some of the attendees wanted legal action taken against the Airbnb landlords. Kathy Slattery wanted their tax records to be researched. She claimed to have found advertisements that listed prices of local Airbnb rentals.

“I’d like to know if you could investigate their earned-income taxes,” Slattery said. “People are making $27,000 a month, and I doubt they’re claiming that.”

“You’re seeming to say because somebody puts an ad in the paper that they’re making some money, are we going to investigate them and their tax returns? It just quite honestly does not work like that,” solicitor Timothy McManus said.

Most of the attendees who defended Airbnb had ties to the hotel and restaurant industry. Ross Blakeslee, a local businessman, explained Airbnb is everywhere.

“I hate to tell everybody, but the West End is part of the Poconos,” Blakeslee said. “People say it’s not part of the Poconos. It is. It always has been.”

Blakeslee also brought up how Airbnb helps stimulate local economies. He also thought it was unfair to penalize landlords who have been lawful. He said neighboring townships Jackson and Hamilton have been able to have Airbnb without much issue.

“It’s tough to make a living nowadays,” he said. “But if somebody gets out of line, there’s ways to penalize people, and the township has the right to do that.”

Supervisor Harry Miller recommended that residents keep written notes of any public disturbances that may happen in the future. Notes should have dates and times for specificity.

Being from a law enforcement background, he explained that written notes are valuable tools in prosecutorial settings.

“We do acknowledge that we’ve heard two drastic different sides to this issue this evening,” Supervisor Carl Gould said. “One is the rental house that’s being rented by mom and dad and two kids, going ’round, doing some things. The other one is the bulk of the testimony was about party houses. So we do acknowledge that.”

Hopefully the supervisors will do something about these "hotels" in residential areas. It is not right that people who live there full time has to suffer sleep deprivation and the loss of enjoyment in their homes because of these Air BnB's and the partying attitude of most of the daily/weekly renters. Unfortunately in Chestnut Hill Township, unless it affects one of the supervisors directly, nothing will be done.
As Slattery said, those running these Air BnB's should be watched at tax time as they are running a business and the township should be taxing them as such during the time they are allowed to exist.

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