NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — North Kingstown town officials want to do a closer examination of whether the town needs more local regulations to govern short-term housing rentals and the businesses and sites for selling legalized marijuana.
Both Town Manager Ralph Mollis and Town Council President Greg Mancini said that officials want to take a closer look at whether and how the town might put further regulations in place to govern those activities.
“There’s been a lot of discussion on the regulations (of short-term rentals) and I wanted to let the council know that we are researching the matter,” Mollis told council members recently in a report.
Noise, traffic and certain concerns with safety are prompting officials to look at this issue with the rentals, Mancini and Mollis said.
With regards to the sale of marijuana, they are exploring “action steps that we may need to take relative to local laws and a ballot question,” Mollis said in his report.
Both issues have become growing concerns for communities across the state as these changes alter living environments in which short-term rentals were yearly housing leases or motel accommodations, not night-by-night charges for a room or two in a house or apartment.
Mollis said he, town planners, the town attorney and town clerk are looking into both issues and will give a report at an upcoming town council meeting.
Marijuana, meanwhile, is seeing its own transformation. For years, the substance carried the stigma of a gateway drug to other more dangerous or toxic drugs — all illegal — and was used often in homes or other private places shielded from public view. Purchasing was a quiet affair from a dealer, not a legalized shop on a commercial street corner.
That may change as the effects of the state’s newly-signed legalization legislation starts to become clear.
Regarding short-term rentals, Mancini said that officials at the moment have no accurate count of the number of people using short-term rentals to earn income. These include online advertising through sites such as AirBnB and Verbo.
Landlords doing these rentals may also be skirting the required lodging taxes.
State law requires a hotel tax of 5%, which is split up into segments of 45% to the tourism districts, 25% to the state, 25% to the town or city in which the hotel is located and 5% to the Providence Convention and Visitors Bureau (PCVB).
Getting a count on some of the local rentals could come through data that a new state law requires the state to collect.
Narragansett has had a local rental registration requirement with the town but neither South Kingstown or North Kingstown have their own.
As of January 4, 2022, short-term rental properties (defined as 30 days or less) listed for rent on third-party websites must be registered with the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation.
The new law requires owners to register each such property and provide the following information to be stored on an online database by the Department of Business Regulation:
Principal place of business of the owner, or if outside the state, the agent for service of process or property manager for the owner
Phone number of the property owner and/or property manager
Email address of the property owner and/or property manager
Rental property address
Number of rooms for rent at the property
Whether the registrant rents or owns
Intended use (entire space, private room, or shared space)
Mancini said that this structure may help with grappling with collecting data, but that he and the council are also awaiting whether other issues that the town Planning Department identifies also may need to be addressed.
In terms of dealing with the sale of marijuana locally, Mancini said that the town wants to explore the approaches other communities are taking to the issue.
Gov. Dan McKee signed a bill May 25 legalizing recreational marijuana in the state and the new law took effect immediately.
Adults age 21 and older can possess up to an ounce of cannabis, they may grow cannabis within their primary residence—up to certain limits—and possess up to 10 ounces of cannabis in addition to live plants.
In addition, retail sales may begin as early as Dec. 1. Mancini said that these sales would need to be done in commercial zones and under tight zoning regulations.
The council is looking at that matter and also wants to know if any local ordinances and any ballot questions to the voters are needed.
In other business, the council also declared June as “Gun Violence Awareness Month” in North Kingstown. Recent school shootings prompted the council to create a resolution that listed various statistics related to shootings in schools and elsewhere.
“Parents of children in North Kingstown schools, students of our schools, and school personnel that work in our schools are all adversely affected by these challenging educational and workplace settings,” it said.
“We call upon the General Assembly to pass legislation to assist our town in ensuring our kids, school personnel, and other town inhabitants are safe from gun violence and/or give our town and all municipalities the authority to do so,” the sentiments read.
Mancini said that proclamation is more than just a “feel good” statement.
“We need to raise awareness anyway we can to help get people involved in prevention, seeing something and saying something before tragedy happens.”