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RED BANK: PORTMAN VETOES RENTAL LAW

billy-portman-012523-2-500x375-9353975Mayor Billy Portman called the ordinance “an effort to appease a few people” who oppose short-term rentals. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

hot-topic_03-220x138-2130637Red Bank Mayor Billy Portman vetoed a controversial law restricting short-term, Airbnb-style residential rentals Wednesday night.

Portman, just seven weeks into his term, announced the rarely used action after the conclusion of a council meeting that ran for three and a half hours without any hint of his intention.

john-jackson-michael-ballard-012523-500x375-3109942Councilman Michael Ballard, right, disputed Portman’s claim that most residents had been ignored. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

At its February 8 session, the council adopted, by a 5-1 vote, an ordinance championed by Councilmember Michael Ballard “effectively banning short term rentals in Red Bank,” Portman said in a press release issued shortly before 11 p.m.

“In truth, an outright ban would be more equitable as the ordinance levies differential treatment across zones,” he wrote.

“In an effort to appease a few people in complete opposition to short term rentals, Councilmembers Ballard, Jackson, Sturdivant, Mirandi, and Zipprich ignored the simple and widely acceptable solution – to require that short term rentals are owner-occupied,” Portman continued.

“Having received voluminous e-mails and feedback from Red Bank residents in support of allowing at least owner-occupied short term rentals, I believe it is my obligation as mayor to veto this ordinance,” he wrote.

Ballard did not immediately respond to a redbankgreen request for comment. At the February 8 session, Ballard disputed Portman’s claim that residents had been denied input. He said opportunities to comment were offered “multiple times” as the proposed law, which he initiated last summer, was tabled twice.

“To say that we did not listen to the residents is just not true,” he said.

Under borough code, a veto can be overridden by a two-thirds supermajority of the six-member council, or four votes. Councilmember Kate Triggiano, long at odds with the five-member majority led by Councilmember Ed Zipprich, cast the lone “no” against adoption of the ordinance.

With the entire governing body up for grabs in the May 9 special election, Portman is running on a slate that includes Triggiano to maintain his seat. Ballard, Councilmember Jacqueline Sturdivant and Councilmember John Jackson are on a separate ticket, announced Tuesday, aiming to keep their council spots.

The ordinance regulates short-term rentals, allowing them in all zones except strictly residential zones. Even owner-occupants in those zones would not be permitted to offer the rentals, though they would be allowed to do so in mixed-use zones.

Here’s the full text of Portman’s statement:

On February 8, 2023, the majority on the Red Bank Borough Council passed an ordinance effectively banning short term rentals in Red Bank. In truth, an outright ban would be more equitable as the ordinance levies differential treatment across zones. However, the intent to prohibit homeowners broadly from offering short term rentals is unmistakable.

Slight variations of this ordinance were brought before the council several times in 2022. During the final council meeting of 2022, the ordinance was tabled, with a promise by Councilman Michael Ballard that there would be a meeting with the public in January to work out the contended details. This meeting never happened. Instead, Councilman Ballard came back with an even more restrictive ordinance that was introduced and passed this month by his council-majority bloc. During public comment, we heard from numerous residents, including residents who share their homes with travel nurses, with visiting artists performing at the Two River theatre, or with people in town visiting family. We heard from neighbors who had formed an informal supportive network of hosts, some of whom use the extra income in order to afford to stay in their homes. These ways of helping one another would no longer be allowed under Councilman Ballard’s new ordinance effectively banning short term rentals.

In an effort to appease a few people in complete opposition to short term rentals,
Councilmembers Ballard, Jackson, Sturdivant, Mirandi, and Zipprich ignored the simple and widely acceptable solution – to require that short term rentals are owner-occupied.

This would eliminate the concerns raised about individual properties, while preserving the rights of Red Bank homeowners in all districts. I believe a governing body that does not listen to its residents and is not forthright about its aims is not an effective governing body. Having received voluminous e-mails and feedback from Red Bank residents in
support of allowing at least owner-occupied short term rentals, I believe it is my
obligation as mayor to veto this ordinance.

As always, I invite any resident that has any concerns about this issue to e-mail me at [email protected], or you can visit me at my open public office hours every Monday from 4-6 PM.

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