Polisena, council express concerns about potential Airbnb

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Mayor Joseph Polisena and the Johnston Town Council expressed concern Monday over a potential Airbnb in town, continuing the conversation until the board’s January meeting.

Polisena approached the council at the end of the licenses portion of the agenda, when it was set to entertain a motion to allow a home on Dix Avenue to establish an Airbnb. Based in San Francisco, Airbnb is a service through which homeowners may rent out rooms to vacationers or tourists – hence the “bnb,” for “bed and breakfast,” at the end of the name.

Polisena implored the council to think carefully about the license, asking the members to add “several restrictions” on parking and limit how many people will be allowed to rent out rooms at the home. He said the homeowners have passed fire marshal and other inspections, but he warned establishing the Airbnb could have other consequences as well.

“Where do we start drawing the line?” Polisena said. “I’m just concerned, I have a major concern. The neighbors are very, very concerned. They’ve been to my office several times, they’ve had complaints. Once this starts, where do we go? I assume [they’re] getting a homestead [exemption]?”

Council President Robert Russo asked if converting the home into a place of business would terminate the homestead exemption, which allows owners a 20 percent deduction on property taxes. Kyla Pecchia, an attorney from Solicitor William Conley’s law office, said she would look into the matter between now and the January council meeting.

One of the home’s residents later told the council that no more than three guests would be allowed at once and the request has already received approval from the zoning board.

“This is for owner-occupied residences, not a business,” Polisena argued. “They’re going to lose the homestead once this takes effect, and any other exemption because this becomes a business.”

All five members of the council voted to push the matter until the first meeting of 2021. One of the members – District 2 Councilman David Santilli – will not be present to see the discussion through. He did not run for reelection, and fellow Democrat Lauren Garzone will be taking his seat on the board.

PAUL DIMAIO RETIRES, WIFE PRISCILLA TAKES HIS SPOT

A familiar face was chosen to replace outgoing Johnston Probate Court Judge Paul DiMaio during Monday’s meeting.

The council accepted his resignation after a 43-year career on the bench, electing to replace him with his wife, Priscilla. She herself has been practicing law for more than 25 years.

“She does an excellent job,” Polisena said shortly before administering the oath to Priscilla DiMaio. “She’s a brilliant jurist and I get to swear her in tonight because she starts tomorrow. You can’t go on vacation.”

Polisena also offered a few remarks on Paul DiMaio, whom he said is a “great guy” and that “he is Johnston.” He was presented with a plaque for his decades of service.

“Forty-three years, over 1,000 sessions,” DiMaio said. “I think there were five appeals. Never a fight in the courtroom. I’ve enjoyed the pleasure and the honor of being involved with the entire Council.”

IN OTHER BUSINESS

The council unanimously approved a business operating license, phone calls only, for Cars, located at 57 Argonne St.

The council approved a secondhand dealer’s license for Gold Crafters, located at 59D Putnam Pike.

The council approved a business operating license, phone calls only, for That Creepy Skull Chick, located at 6 Pleasant View Ave.

The council approved a restaurant license for Cayenne Sushi Restaurant, located at 1450 Atwood Ave., Suite 11.

The council approved a business operating license, phone calls only, for Birch and Bergamot, located at 31 Sheridan St.

The council approved a business operating license, phone calls only, for Budget Blinds of Newport, located at 37 Atwells Ave.

The council approved a business operating license, phone calls only, for Trendy McKenzie Boutique, located at 14 Peppermint Lane.

The council approved a business operating license for AEP Services, Inc., located at 6 Bowen St.

The council approved a business operating license for Absolutely Respiratory Care, located at 1665 Hartford Ave.

The council approved the annual renewal of all liquor and entertainment licenses, in separate motions, for the year 2020-21.

NEW BUSINESS

The council approved a petition from National Grid and Verizon New England Inc., to install a new jointly owned pole on Oakdale Avenue.

The council referred to the Planning Board for an advisory opinion a petition submitted by K. Joseph Shekarchi on behalf of Geranskye Real Estate Investments LLC, for a zone map change for assessor’s plat 4, lot 311, located at 64 Mill St. to change from an industrial zone district to a planned development zone district.

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