Joint effort

LAKE PLACID – Mayor Craig Randall expects Lake Placid’s village board and the North Elba town council to meet this fall to work together on issues of code enforcement and vacation rentals.

The last session of the sort was held last October, when the Lake Placid-North Elba Community Development Commission presented a preliminary report on the idea of vacation rental “permits.” The commission has a study group devoted to the issue, one that presented its initial recommendations on permits related to parking, fire safety and occupancy of vacation rentals to each board earlier this year.

“I think they need to keep stirring the pot,” Randall said of the commission at last week’s village board meeting. “The complaints are out there, and we don’t have appropriate recognition of limitations on vacation rentals. There’s no restrictions at all today. Somebody can buy a house in Lake Placid, inside or outside the village – there is no guidance to how vacation rentals (work and) what the minimum standards should be.

“They are public safety issues for the most part.”

The concerns about vacation rentals come at a time when Airbnb, the nation’s most popular peer-to-peer online vacation rental marketplace, has boomed in popularity in Essex County. The number of hosts in the county jumped 39 percent compared to just six months prior, with 280 active hosts as of July 1, according to Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism CEO Jim McKenna.

And those numbers came before the busy three-week stretch of Ironman Lake Placid, Can-Am Rugby and Lake Placid Summit Lacrosse Classic that resulted in vacation rental and code enforcement complaints.

The discussion of the village and town coming together to figure out a plan to quell vacation rental-related concerns evolved out of a discussion last Monday about the village and town’s code enforcement quandary. At the board’s previous meeting on Aug. 1, Randall and village attorney Janet Bliss led a discussion about what they felt was a need to expand code enforcement throughout Lake Placid with the addition of a second, “deputy” code enforcement officer. The discussion was prompted after a busy July events season in which Bliss and other trustees said code violations exceeded the office’s resources.

“If we do not get the coverage that we need for enforcement, maybe we do our own thing?” Bliss said on Aug. 1.

That was the exact recommendation town Supervisor Roby Politi offered at the town council’s Aug. 9 meeting, adding that the town’s longtime Code Enforcement Officer James Morganson was also in favor of the idea.

“I read it in the paper, and when we had a workshop session – I think that the building inspector’s position was rather than hire a deputy, maybe the village should have their own,” Politi said. “Because there is so much going on in the village, maybe the village should have their own code enforcement office and officer?”

Randall said at last week’s meeting he had finalized a letter to Politi and the town council outlining the village board’s discussion and encouraging them to consider the possibility that code enforcement be “reinforced” with an additional person.

“Right now we have the joint planning and code enforcement office, so I think we would first work with that to see what we can create,” Randall said. “I believe it even gets into, or should get into, the vacation rentals and the excessive issues that neighborhoods have problems with.”

Randall offered up his thoughts on vacation rentals after reading about the town council’s comments on the topic. Randall described the vacation rental situation as “code enforcement issues, too.

“Those are two topics the two boards need to come together on and see where we agree,” he said.

“I think the issue is that there may have to be some legislation passed,” Bliss said last week. “The question is, would the legislation just be registration of those (vacation rental) properties, or would that involve payment of fees, inspections? What would the legislation look like?”