Garwood Officials Move To Prohibit Short-Term Rentals

 

By KELLY MEHORTER
For Union County HAWK

GARWOOD — The Garwood Borough Council met Monday evening, at which time officials introduced three ordinances, including one that would enforce the borough’s current prohibition on short-term rentals of 28 consecutive days or less, if passed.

“If it’s not written in our current code, then it is not allowed. Thereby, short-term rentals were never allowed since the beginning. Thereby, the current short-term rental that exists and the ones previously were considered in violation of our current code,” Borough Attorney Adam Abramson clarified. “This is coming at a recommendation from our planning board attorney, as well as myself, to ensure that if a violation is going to be issued, we actually have something written, rather than relying on the verbiage, ‘if it’s not included, then it’s not considered legal.’”

Currently, the council is waiting for a finalized recommendation from the planning board that could establish regulations for the operation of short-term rentals within the borough. Until a recommendation is received and a new ordinance is approved, this potential ordinance would specifically state that short-term rentals are a violation of the borough’s land-use code.

“[T]he Borough seeks to preserve is [sic] unique sense of community of a small town with a big heart which it derives from its residents’ participation in civil affairs, local government, events, and educational endeavors,” a section introducing the ordinance reads. “[G]enerally, transient guests have little interest in maintaining the welfare and character of a community … the Borough Council seeks to amend the Code to include regulations necessary for the preservation of safety, quality and character of its neighborhoods and general welfare.”

Resident Bruce Paterson stated that according to “public perception,” this ordinance appears to be a “vindictive action” against the owner of Garwood’s sole Airbnb.

“Frankly, I find it to be a strong and undeserving accusation that what I’m asking the council to do is in retribution,” said Mayor Sara Todisco, who first advocated for a ban on short-term rentals within the borough at a council meeting in August. “My position on this has been very clear since day one, since that August 11 meeting. My position on it has never changed. My position on it was created from neighbors who have reached out to me with their concerns … the one particular Airbnb that exists right now, the homeowner of that, I did not know at the August 11 meeting.”

In other business, the council passed an ordinance to amend the rules and fees regarding extra-duty employment of Garwood police department members. More specifically, the borough may now use a private, secondary service to administrate the employment, billing, paying and scheduling of police officers. The newly-established fee for off-duty police services is $75 per hour, the fee for the use of an off-duty police vehicle is $100 per day, and $5 per hour will be added as a borough administration fee.

Officials also introduced an ordinance to amend the fire-prevention chapter of the borough code, as recommended by the fire department. These changes incorporate minor language updates, including clarification that fire officials must be state-certified. In addition, the amendment would give fire officials the ability to reassess inspection fees for noncompliance or missed appointments, and it also would establish adjustments to the inspection categories and fee schedule.

The council introduced an ordinance that would amend the borough’s property-maintenance regulations, stipulating that brush, weeds, grass, accumulated water and other debris must be removed from properties within 10 days after service of a notice to remove or remedy the condition. Previously, the occupant had five days to remedy the condition.

Further, Borough Administrator Kyle Harris announced that he is exploring energy-efficient options for upgrades to the lighting, heating and cooling within Borough Hall and the fire department building. The council approved a resolution allowing an energy audit to take place at these locations, which is at no cost to the borough at this time.

The next Garwood Council meeting will take place on Thursday, December 8, at 7 p.m., at Borough Hall. Residents also are welcome to watch a live stream via YouTube or participate by joining the Zoom link available on the borough website.

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