Eagle Times | October 26, 2016

'Rooming house' bylaws draw discussion from citizens

After nearly two hours of heated discussion and comments from the public, the Springfield Selectboard voted 5-0 to adopt proposed amendments to zoning regulations for rooming houses. ...

Several voiced frustration at what they described as unregulated, unsupervised, crowded rooming houses. Others spoke up to advocate for residents who were low-income, elderly, transitional and in recovery and who may need a room to rent as opposed to a full apartment. Some said they wanted the people living in rooming houses or living transitionally, just out of prison, to “go home.” ...

Mairead O’Reilly and Springfield resident Jacob Speidel, who both work for Vermont Legal Aid, offered advice and cautioned the selectboard to seek further legal opinions on the wording of the amendments before making a final decision. O’Reilly said she had concerns related to federal law, and that enacting the ordinance as written could potentially expose town to liability. She also offered to share some of her writing in the field of opioid recovery to be included in the board’s consideration of issues.

Speidel, who represents low-income senior citizens, shared a concern that renting a single room is less expensive than a full apartment, and often, a room is what they can afford. He also said he was concerned the new rules would allow fewer rooms for rent.

Upon a suggestion from Speidel that the board send the document to the town’s lawyer for review before coming to a decision, to avoid any possible legal consequences in the future, McNaughton said the town’s attorney is “very aware” of the language in the amendment.