At the meeting of City Council on Monday, Dec. 9, Councilor John Hanlon dismantled the progress on short-term rental legislation in the City of Everett – something the administration has been working to fine-tune for the last several months.
In preparation for a final vote on Dec. 23, Councilors were asked to enroll a new section regarding short-term rentals to the City’s Zoning Ordinance. The enrollment required a two-thirds majority in order to pass, and failed to do so when Councilor Hanlon voted against it. His vote was critical, given the fact that three other councilors were absent.
There was a marked pause in the voting after the councilor voiced his opposition. City Clerk Sergio Cornelio, whose office has been one of the offices that worked tirelessly to draft comprehensive short-term rental legislation, was visibly flustered.
Councilor Rosa DiFlorio tried to get Councilor Hanlon to reconsider his position and he responded inaudibly.
Following the vote, Cornelio announced that the measure had not passed, effectively rendering the existing short-term rental legislation null and void.
“My office, along with [the City Solicitor’s Office] and James Soper (CBO of the Inspectional Services Department), has worked probably 25 hours on these ordinances. We’ve worked the whole year to amend this,” he told Council. “I don’t know what we’re going to do with regards to short-term rentals. They’ll be in limbo going forward. We will have people operating illegally.”
Short-term rentals in Everett have been a major topic of conversation in recent months, with residents calling for City leadership to adopt stricter guidelines for operators. Council passed measures requiring owners to live at the property year-round and become licensed with the City. However, the failure to update the Zoning Ordinance may mean that there is no legal basis for enforcing these rules.
In conversations with The Independent, Council members expressed disappointment with Councilor Hanlon’s decision.
“I can’t believe this just happened. I’m in a state of shock,” said Councilor DiFlorio, who originally introduced the need for short-term rental legislation earlier this year. “Nobody should be voting against that. We’ve been working on it for a year.”
The councilwoman said that the ordinances may not have been perfect, but they were better than having none at all and could have been amended in the future.
“I have great respect for Councilor Hanlon, but I am disappointed to see that a piece of such importance to Everett failed to pass,” said Councilor Michael McLaughlin. “This is one matter that can truly protect the residents of Everett.”
Councilor Anthony DiPierro said he “wasn’t really sure what to think” about the councilor’s decision.
“It’s an ordinance we’ve worked hard on for a long time,” he said. “I’m not sure what his reasoning was for voting that way.”
Cornelio told The Independent that he was working with the City Solicitor’s Office to salvage the ordinances already in place. He is scrambling to call an emergency meeting of Council to enroll the measure before a final vote at the Dec. 23 meeting.
Failing to pass the short-term rental legislation by the end of the year would mean having to reintroduce it in 2020 with the new Council. It would then have to pass through several stages, which Cornelio said would take two months at the very least, and more likely three to four months.
There was some speculation that Councilor Hanlon, who had historically supported the legislation, may not have fully comprehended what he was voting on at the time and may be reconsidering his position.
The councilor did not return a call from The Independent regarding his decision.