His method, Airbnb’s online rental service, was of course different than his father’s had been, Packer said, but the economic benefit proved to be largely the same.

“For me, as it has for others who list their property, (Airbnb) has been an economic life preserver allowing us to keep our home,” Packer said, adding that he’s even earned enough to make overdue improvements to his property. “As for the guests, they’re spending money right here in New Fairfield at our stores and restaurants...and they’re paying a 15 percent tax to the state of Connecticut for their stay.”

He and other Airbnb hosts, including “Sweet Dotti’s Cottage” owner Rob White, contended in a public hearing last week that the website has provided responsible guests to stay in their homes, all while creating an added source of income.

But others in the crowd told horror stories of other Airbnb hosts squeezing large groups into small houses by counting couches, air mattresses and even hammocks as beds.

The arguments echo an ongoing debate around the country as states and municipalities take different approaches to ensuring the online rental system doesn’t disturb neighborhoods, the housing market or the hospitality industry.

Some, like New York City, have created a 30-day minimum for rentals, while others limit the times per year owners can rent or require a registry for hosts. In Connecticut, the state legislature has not yet taken action on the rentals, except to become one of the states that partners with Airbnb to collect the 15 percent lodging tax from renters.

The hearing in New Fairfield, the first step in its efforts to regulate the rentals, is the first time the debate has reached the small town. Zoning officials scheduled it after at least a dozen Airbnb properties popped up this year, mostly around the lake.

The lakeside residents seemed to agree that some sort of regulation or enforcement is necessary to protect neighborhoods from ”absentee owners.”

Neighbors said in those cases renters have left behind trash, created parking hazards, strained septic systems, used neighbors’ docks and at one home, are going to the bathroom outside.

“We have had college frat parties, we’ve had people show up running around naked, it’s not a good thing,” one Candlewood Isle resident said. “We need to maintain our homes and our properties for our families…Our neighborhood is a home private community, not a resort.”

But owners like White and Packer, and other supportive residents, claim that the irresponsible hosts shouldn’t mean the town should shut down all Airbnbs, which can help homeowners, the town’s economy and provide hospitality options.

“We’ve had now more than 100 rentals in three years and we’ve had almost no problems at all,” White said.