Published in the June 15, 2016 edition
By MAUREEN DOHERTY
LYNNFIELD — In the wake of the fatal shooting at 8 Needham Rd. during a party over the Memorial Day weekend, town officials are reviewing the town’s zoning bylaws to determine what can be done to prohibit future short-term rentals using online sites in residential districts.
A cease and desist order was issued to homeowner Alexander Styller by Building Inspector Jack Roberto via certified mail May 31. It orders Styller to stop offering his home “for lodging purposes on a short-term rental basis” because doing so violates the town’s zoning bylaws that prohibit short-term rentals in the single-family zoning district.
Such rentals are classified as a hotel, lodging or rooming house use. Lodging house uses are only allowed by a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), which Styller has never obtained, Roberto’s letter stated.
Roberto also ordered Styller to “remove all mention of the premises from the AirBnB website and any similar marketing platform.” Styller was quoted in published reports as stating he had rented the mansion through a site called HomeAway and further stated that the renters told him they did not know the victim.
Keivan Heath, 33, a father of two from Randolph, died as a result of his gunshot wounds in the early morning hours of Sunday, May 29. No arrests have been made in connection with Heath’s death.
At the June 7 selectmen’s meeting, Selectmen Chairman Phil Crawford gave an update on the town’s response to the shooting, which made national news. “It is now under investigation by the DA’s office,” he said.
“Our first knee-jerk reaction was to find out if what they were doing with that home was allowed by our bylaws and we found that you cannot rent a house out for short-term lodging,” Crawford said, explaining that Styller has 30 days to respond to the cease and desist order. He can either appeal it to the ZBA or apply for a special permit for a lodging house, which is also heard by the ZBA.
“We’ve spoken to (Styller’s) attorney; he does plan on doing that and it would be in the ZBA’s hands. Depending on what they do, that will determine what we do next as far as what actions the town has available,” Crawford said.
“If the Zoning Board of Appeals denies it, which we certainly hope they do, I would like to see town counsel then file an injunction at the local court to prevent any further rental of that property,” Crawford said.
“We certainly have to defer to the investigation that is ongoing with the DA’s office and wait for their final report,” Crawford added, promising to continue to keep the public informed of both the DA’s investigation and the outcome of any ZBA public hearings.
Noting that the Needham Road area has many families with children, Crawford said that the town is “extremely concerned with the safety and the welfare of the residents in that area. …There were several hundred cars that were in the neighborhood and flying out onto Chestnut Street that evening. And when the incident happened they got out of there pretty quickly while our public safety personnel were trying to get there,” he said.
Selectman Chris Barrett said, “One of the things I hope the Zoning Board does is look to see if we can strengthen that bylaw or if it needs to be strengthened in any way.” Barrett asked Town Administrator Jim Boudreau if he could “speak to that.”
Boudreau said there will be ongoing discussions with Town Counsel Tom Mullen and Building Inspector Jack Roberto. “We want to strengthen it,” the T.A. said.
Selectman Dick Dalton said since the shooting he has spoken to many neighbors of the 8 Needham Rd. property as well as those residing in the general neighborhood.
“They are quite upset, obviously. They are very nervous and people were hesitant to come here this evening to speak to the board, fearing that they didn’t want their names out there on this issue,” Dalton said.
“What’s upsetting (to the neighbors) besides the incident itself is the public statements that the property owner has made that he intends on continuing to rent out his property; it’s ‘his right,’” Dalton said.
According to those he spoke with, Dalton said, “There’s a history of parties at this location. It’s not the first one; it’s not the first large one,” but up until this shooting occurred, he said the neighbors thought these parties involved just “friends and family” of the homeowner; they had no reason to believe the parties were the result of house rentals.
“Rightfully so, people are upset with that,” Dalton believes. “To second what you’re saying, we’ll do everything we can, whether it’s amendments to the zoning bylaws or whatever, to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
Continuing to advertise
On June 8, the day after the selectmen’s meeting, Crawford informed the Villager that he had been told “the home is being advertised for rent again on AirBnB in direct violation of the cease and desist order. We have town counsel looking into the matter.”