The Zoning Board of Appeal today voted to defer any action on a request from the owner of 17-33 Winter St. to convert what are now 27 apartments into 34 executive suites aimed at business travelers while the city law department considers the legalities of new executive suites now that the city has an ordinance aimed at keeping tenants from being forced out for units aimed at travelers.
The deferral on the request from Sonder, the hospitality company that bought the building in 2017, comes after the board voted last month to put off any action on a proposal to raze a single-family home in East Boston to build nine executive suites.
In that case, the zoning allows for executive suites with zoning-board approval; the board sought legal advice on how to write a formal approval that would ensure the units could not then be converted into condos. In today's case, executive suites are forbidden under the zoning for Winter Street, so Sonder needs a variance, which technically should be harder to get.
Under Sonder's proposal, the building's existing ground-floor commercial space would remain.
After the city enacted an ordinance banning investor-owned short-term rental units - advertised on such sites as Airbnb - investors began looking at creating "boutique hotels," executive suites and even lodging houses that could be rented to visitors.
In January, the board rejected a proposal by the owners of a three-family house in East Boston, who had been renting the units on Airbnb, to reclassify the building as a lodging house.
Last month, the Boston Licensing Board approved conversion of a Massachusetts Avenue lodging house from single-room occupancy units to more luxurious units aimed at business travelers.