Press Release from Matt Sheley, Town of Middletown

The Town of Middletown has a new task force to study short-term rentals.

Town Council members heard from a number of people representing different sides of the issue during a wide-ranging conversation from Town Hall on Monday night. 

From that dialogue, the council set the membership of the board to include a single council representative, three local short-term rental operators and three residents who do not operate short-term rentals. Also part of the board as nonvoting members are Discover Newport President & CEO Evan Smith and relevant town staff.

Applications to serve on the Middletown Short-Term Rental Task Force will be released in coming days by the Town Clerk’s office. To submit an application once they’re available, drop by Town Hall during normal business hours or visit online.

Despite the diverse makeup of the task force, council Vice President Paul M. Rodrigues said it was important the group worked together for what’s best for all of Middletown.

“(We need to get) people and go through the criteria and try to figure out who are going to be the best people on this committee to make this thing happen,” Rodrigues said. “It can’t be one side against the other. It has to be together. Just like us. We have to be together.”

Over the past few months, short-term rentals have evolved into one of the trickier subjects facing the council – and the town as a whole.

Proponents say short-term rentals are good for Middletown, helping expand the economy and giving visitors another alternative to stay, particularly during the busy summer months. If there are problems, short-term rental proponents have said those are almost always at non-owner-occupied units held by out-of-towners. 

In response, opponents argue short-term rentals are nothing more than commercial operations in residential zones. They say they cause noise, trash, parking and related problems that ruin summers. Worse long term for the community, they said short-term rentals take housing stock off the market and drive up the price of homes for everyone.

The rift was on full display Monday night, when members of both camps explained their positions and the council sought common ground. 

To better deal with short-term rentals this summer, Middletown Police are expected to bring in several interns to assist with identifying problem areas. The Building Department  has also said it will be stepping up its response to address short-term rental issues in Middletown.

Town Administrator Shawn J. Brown has also held multiple strategy sessions with town staff to make sure everyone is on the same page and issues are logged and addressed moving forward.

Registration for short-term rentals started through the Town Clerk’s office on April 1. To submit paperwork, visit Town Hall during normal business hours or online.

Green End Avenue resident James Redfearn again expressed concerns to the council, saying he remained worried that another summer would be impacted by a problematic short-term rental next door.

“I’m now going, I don’t know, the 16th or 17th year dealing with this and when we first started talking in January, I was cautiously optimistic that I would get some type of reprieve this year,” Redfearn said. “I would really appreciate it if somebody from the town could tell me how I’m supposed to deal with this again this year because clearly, nothing’s going to get done before the summer, which quite honestly I once again dread.”

In response, Rodrigues said he completely understood what Redfearn and others like him were saying and the town would be proactive on short-term rentals more than ever before.

“I’m still hoping we get a zoning enforcement officer for this season,” Rodrigues said. “If we do anything, I believe it needs to be an enforcement person…One of the things certainly I’ve communicated to Mr. Brown that there cannot be that gap of when somebody calls.”