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    Tuesday, February 27, 2024

    Banning STRs not the answer in Groton

    I am a Groton resident and an active Airbnb host for over 5 years. I love Mystic and have been happy to watch its growth as a tourism powerhouse. This is why I am deeply concerned by proposals from the Groton Zoning Committee and Town Council to ban future short-term rentals or to require the owner to live in the property as their primary residence. This approach is short-sighted, unfair and economically detrimental — not to mention a gift to the corporate hotel industry.

    I believe tourism — and by extension, short term rentals — are critical to Groton’s continued success; tourism dollars are a driving force in our local economy and a foundational element of our tax revenue. To suggest Mystic is simply a quaint, quiet neighborhood is to ignore what has driven folks to come here — and what has helped our local economy succeed.

    Tourists value the opportunity to stay in our charming, historic homes and to be close to the downtown center, especially if they can do so together with their families at a more reasonable cost compared to a corporate, distant hotel by the highway. The frank truth is that there is simply not enough hotel supply to service demand; cutting off short-term rentals would drive up hotel prices and push out tourists — likely to the benefit of other towns. Not to mention that the majority of Mystic hotels are in Stonington, thus only hurting Groton further.

    Short-term rental properties in Groton also drive income to cleaners, handymen, contractors and more who depend on this income for their livelihoods. Any local business should be concerned about the implications of making it more challenging or expensive to visit — and banning or suffocating short-term rentals would do exactly that.

    It also can’t be left unsaid that short-term rentals in Groton are a force in our real estate market and allow families to live here. Folks buy in Mystic with the understanding that they will be able to rent the home for periods of time. Other folks have lived here for decades — watching their property taxes skyrocket — and benefit from the ability to rent their property from time to time.

    Some groups suggest most hosts are ‘investment companies’ or ‘outsiders’; this is a false smear and couldn’t be further from the truth. The vast majority of hosts love this town and want to spend as much time here as they can; removing the ability for these homeowners to defray their costs will force them to send their dollars elsewhere. Realtors, property tax collectors and sellers alike should be aware that banning short-term rentals will drive home prices down.

    Lastly, it is disappointing these far-reaching proposals are being pursued via zoning measures or town ordinance, rather than putting the question to voters; I imagine town bureaucrats are well aware of the outcome last year in Stonington of a similar proposal, and would hope the overwhelming voter rejection weighs heavily in their analysis.

    This is not to suggest I am opposed to any and all regulation of short-term rentals. While I have never once had a safety or neighbor issue, I understand that there are a handful of negligent hosts; I also know there are many more well-intentioned hosts who have the rare bad-apple guest. Requiring some form of registration, maintaining noise ordinances and ensuring off-street parking are all completely reasonable requests. But to require homeowners to be primary residents or to rid the town of future STRs is the wrong way forward for Mystic.

    A Mystic native and resident, Matt Rodrigues owns and operates East Street Hospitality, a hospitality management firm.

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