Planners OK short-term rental on Institute Street

Published 5:59 pm Thursday, August 10, 2023

Smithfield’s Planning Commission is recommending approval of a permit that would allow a house on Institute Street to be used exclusively for short-term rentals.

Smithfield changed its ordinances in 2020 to allow homeowners the option of leasing their residences as short-term rentals through services like Airbnb, provided the homeowner obtains a town business license and signs a short-term rental affidavit. As long as the property is leased no more than 104 nights per calendar year, and to no more than two guests per bedroom, the use is “by right,” according to Tammie Clary, the town’s director of planning and community development. By-right use means no Planning Commission or Town Council approval is necessary.

In this case, however, the owner has proposed making short-term rentals the property’s “principal use,” which would entail exceeding the 104-night limit and require a special use permit.

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The Planning Commission, on Aug. 8, voted unanimously to send the application to the Town Council with a favorable recommendation. The council will have the final say as to whether the permit is approved.

According to Clary, this will be the third time a homeowner has gone through the process outlined in the 2020 ordinance to convert their property into a full-time short-term rental business. A fourth, located on Mason Street, was already operating and grandfathered as of the 2020 change. All four, including the Institute Street home, are located in the town’s historic district.

An Aug. 9 search on Airbnb showed seven homes available for rent in Smithfield, ranging in price from $70 per night for a single room to $787 per night to rent an entire five-bedroom home.