The Winthrop Town Council is considering requests by a number of residents and owners of overnight rental units to review how the town classifies and charges those units for water and sewer services.
The issue arose at the council’s June 6 meeting after Laura and Casey Ruud, who oversee a number of condominium units in Winthrop which are used as nightly rentals, said they noticed an increase in charges for water and sewer services.
According to town officials, the increase was a result of a reclassification of nightly rentals from residential properties to commercial properties, a change which was undertaken in order to be consistent with the Winthrop Municipal Code.
However, the rental owners argued that the decision was unfair, citing statistics which demonstrated that the rental units actually use significantly less water than they were allotted under their initial residential classification.
“There is no justification for increasing monthly water rates for nightly rentals based on consumption …,” said the Ruuds in an email to the town council. “There is no difference between how nightly rentals are used and how other non–nightly rental condos are used.”
“If the Town of Winthrop cannot point to higher water/sewage usage and therefore higher costs to serve the nightly rentals, then this simply becomes a bogus tax on tourists and the people who serve them,” the email continued.
The council agreed to create a committee of stakeholders and town officials to review the municipal code and recommend a solution.
In other business, the council heard more about the ongoing discussion over a new operating agreement for the Red Barn with the Winthrop Auditorium Association.
Mayor Sally Ranzau reported that she had spoken with the Winthrop Auditorium Association’s new president, Rick Northcott, earlier that afternoon, and was optimistic that they’d reach an agreement.
“We’re trying to make this agreement work,” said Ranzau. “Any changes should be minor.”
“We want to make sure we can operate it in a way that doesn’t lose money,” she said, citing the importance of ensuring that the barn is economically viable. Still, she made sure to reiterate the importance of the structure, stating “we want to make it a showcase for this town.”