Short-term rental use being considered in Southwick

Southwick lakefront short-term rental properties are not currently allowed. A category for such rentals is being considered for a zoning bylaw. (THE WESTFIELD NEWS PHOTO)

SOUTHWICK – The town is considering creating a zoning category for short-term rentals such as properties listed as Air BnBs.

Town Counsel David Benson said Southwick is a “prohibitive use” community, which means unless something is specifically included in zoning bylaws, it is prohibited.

Until a category is created, residents with short-term rental properties could receive cease and desist orders if there are complaints about guests.

Benson told the Select Board Tuesday that he has created a draft based on similar bylaws in surrounding communities. He said Building Inspector Kyle Scott was interested in creating the zoning.

“It’s a good idea to get something in the books,” said Scott, adding that he trusts Benson’s judgment on the language.

Benson said the wording he proposed makes short-term rentals a separate category.

“The idea is to make it a separate use, not create an overlay district,” Benson said.

When asked what constitutes short-term, Benson said the law refers to short term rentals as less than 14 days consecutively.

Selectman Russell Fox asked about the residents who live next to short-term rental homes who have expressed concerns about the properties and guests, particularly when it comes to health and safety during the pandemic.

Benson said those rental property owners are currently “violating the zoning bylaws” and they could be shut down. He added that “there are appropriate appellate avenues for them.”

“By the current zoning bylaws it’s very clear that this is not an allowed use,” Benson said.

There are several Southwick homes listed online as short-term rentals, most located on Congamond Lake.

The draft will be reviewed by the Planning Board for consideration.



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