Zoning laws restrict student rentals

by Jay Krehbiel | 5/6/98 5:00am

Although a Hanover zoning ordinance forbids more than three unrelated people from renting in a single building, many owners who rent property find ways around the law or are simply unaware of its existence.

In a recent confrontation with the town, Peter Dayton was informed that his rental building on North Park Street violated the ordinance. Upon appealing the decision, the Hanover Zoning Board of Adjustment excluded Dayton's building because he had been renting before the 1986 change which set the current rules.

Dayton's rental building was brought to the attention of the town's Planning and Zoning Office by several neighbors, who said he had five occupants, two more than allowed under the law.

Though Dayton argued he was renting prior to the establishment of the ordinance and therefore not held to that law, Planning and Zoning Director Craig Ohlson said he "did not buy off on [Dayton's] argument."

Dayton appealed the decision to the Zoning Board, and won permission to rent up to four people.

Dayton said his family purchased the building in question about 18 years ago to house his family. The family lived there less than a year and began renting the house when it moved out.

"There were some neighbors who were apparently upset, but as far as we're concerned the matter is resolved," said Dayton's lawyer, Geoffrey Vitt. Dayton can now rent to four people indefinitely.

The ordinance still stands though, and other rental units are outside the rules.

Fox Run Realty's principle broker, Charles Egner, said if the town were to actively enforce the rules, it would make owning rental space less profitable. "It would seriously limit the amount of rent I could charge and diminish the value of the property."

"The values of these rental properties are generally linked to the amount of rent you can charge," Egner said, which means strict enforcement could lead to a large decline in property values.

Ohlson said the town is not quick to look for trouble, though there is always an investigation when complaints are made. "This is a college town, so it usually does occur that there were more than three."

Dayton views it another way. "Hanover is a college town. If the College wasn't there, Hanover would be a dump like Claremont," he said.