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Proposed short-term-rental bylaw: When the ‘greater good’ harms the minority

We are not a money-hungry corporation, nor are we wealthy investors or developers — the people Ms. Davis has referred to when speaking about this proposal.

The writers sent the following letter to the Great Barrington Selectboard.

To the honorable Board of Selectmen:

I have been following the discussion regarding the short-term-rental bylaw proposal brought forward by selectboard member Leigh Davis.

Although I presented some of my concerns regarding the proposal at a recent selectboard meeting, I would like to submit these concerns, in writing, to the selectboard for the public record.

My husband and I own property at 70 Division St., my family’s homestead. My father built the house in 1958, and here my father and mother raised eight children, all of whom attended Great Barrington’s public schools. My father died in 2013. Upon my mother’s death in 2017, she left the house to me. It was her desire and that of my late father that the house remain in the family and when the time came, left to their daughter.

We are not a money-hungry corporation, nor are we wealthy investors or developers — the people Ms. Davis has referred to when speaking about this proposal. She has stated that this proposed bylaw will “deter” such people from buying up properties in Great Barrington and turning them into short-term rentals. However, not all property owners fall into this category — certainly not us!

Because I have had little opportunity to travel, I would like to do so when I retire. My husband is from Michigan and often expresses a desire to retire to that state. My husband and I do not have large retirement accounts. In order to pursue our retirement dreams, we will need to supplement our retirement income. To do so, we thought we would rent our home as a short-term rental. This would not only provide income, but also provide us the freedom to visit the Berkshires when we want to without the necessity of working around a year-round tenant in the house. Best of all, we would not be forced to sell our home in order to retire comfortably and pursue our retirement plan.

Unfortunately, the short-term-rental bylaw, as currently proposed, will negatively affect our retirement plans. The days we could rent, since we would not be living full-time at 70 Division St., would be limited, therefore the income generated from the rentals would also be limited. As stated above, renting to a year-round tenant would impede our ability to visit the area when we, the homeowner, choose to or allow family members to stay at the house. It seems to us that, in a way, this proposal will force some people to rent to a year-round tenant, since the only other options would be to leave the house empty or sell, neither which are attractive options for us.

Ms. Davis stated several times that this is about the “greater good,” an argument that I have found often used when presenting a controversial proposal. However, I ask that Ms. Davis consider all of her constituents when advocating for this proposal because sometimes when promoting the “greater good,” people in the minority are harmed.

Michelle and Bruce Loubert
Housatonic

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