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Judge upholds Lynnfield’s ban on short-term rentals

LYNNFIELD — Two years after a Randolph man was killed in a Needham Road home leased for the weekend, a Land Court judge has ruled in favor of Lynnfield’s prohibition on short-term rentals.

In a 16-page decision late Friday, Judge Keith C. Long rejected a claim by Alexander Styller, the homeowner, that he had a “grandfathered” right to lease his five-bedroom home.

The case unfolded in 2016 when Styller featured his  10-room contemporary-style house with a pool, bar, and hot tub on several websites including AirBnB, Tripz, VacationalHomeRentals, and Flipkey, a division of TripAdvisor. The ad was answered by Woody Victor, who rented the 5,584-square-foot home on a 3-acre gated estate over Memorial Day weekend in 2016 for $6,418, or $2,139 per night,  according to court documents. While Victor allegedly told Styller five guests would be staying in the mansion, he failed to mention a party was planned with 100 people, according to the complaint. It should be noted that one year after the homicide, Styller told Boston Magazine that Victor said he expected a gathering of about 20 people for a college reunion.

At 3 a.m. on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, shots rang out, and partygoer Keivan Heath, 33, was dead. The case remains unsolved, according to Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett’s office.

Days after the homicide, John Roberto, Lynnfield’s building inspector, issued a cease-and-desist letter to the homeowner, noting the weekend rental violated the town’s bylaws. The notice also prohibited further short leases without a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA).  

In addition, the town quickly amended its bylaws to specifically address such rentals. Styller appealed the building inspector’s decision to the ZBA, which upheld the order.

Instead of putting an end to advertising, Styller filed suit. His attorney argued that short-term rentals were permitted as of right by the pre-amended bylaw and thus leasing his home should be allowed.

But the judge disagreed.

“Lynnfield may outlaw short-term rental without a special permit and that such leases were always unlawful under the applicable provisions of the Lynnfield zoning bylaw, without a special permit, and thus he (Styller) has no grandfathered right to make such rentals,” Long wrote.

Styller did not return a call seeking comment.  

In June of last year, Styller listed the custom-built home for $2.9 million, according to the MLS Property Information Network. It sold in July after nearly a year on the market for $2 million.


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