This reader and Manchester Village resident was surprised and disheartened to hear that the board issued a fine and denied a variance to the Equinox Hotel for its employee housing on Dillingham Street (Banner, Nov. 10). The board’s current decision doesn’t appear to benefit our tourism industry, and its overall zoning approach doesn’t appear to benefit all residents.
The tourism industry is vital to our local economy — the many hotels, motels, restaurants, ski resorts and other businesses that accommodate visitors from out of state. The board might decide that it’s vital to support these industries. If this is the board’s vision of our town, how can we deny the rights of those who work in these industries to live here? Their labor is essential. Housing here is unaffordable for many, especially vital service industry workers. Equinox tries to provide housing, yet they are punished for it.
The board, it seems, believes that tourism is of the utmost importance to our town, as housing disappears into the short-term rental industry, but that the workers who make the tourism industry possible are not to be seen nor heard from. According to the village’s zoning information posted online, bed and breakfast facilities fall under conditional zoning in most parts of the village, yet a quick search on Vrbo or Airbnb show how the village has not been stingy approving these short-term rentals. In other words, the Zoning Board appears to be approving short-term rentals while pushing people who actually work in our community out of a house. Now, amid a housing shortage and record real estate prices, a house sits empty and a vital business in our community loses out on revenue as the Equinox is forced to house these employees in the 1811 house.
The board has every right to exercise zoning laws. The board might also grant variances or change those laws. These choices will shape what kind of town we are. I hope that the board will consider finding ways to help improve housing affordability and access for everyone, including those service workers who make Manchester what it is, rather than punishing the Equinox Hotel for doing so.
The recent minutes of the board indicate that affordable housing is something on their minds. That’s encouraging. I implore them to see the opportunities before them to create a more livable Manchester.
Tom von Allmen