New bill to be drafted on short-term vacation rentals

Village and town officials sit before an audience and discuss the proposed restrictions on short-term vacation rentals. (Enterprise photo — Kevin Shea)

LAKE PLACID — Regulation of short-term vacation rentals is one step closer in the town of North Elba and the village of Lake Placid, but, town and village officials share the sentiment that the discussion has lagged.

“I hate to say it, but we’re back to where we were January 1,” village Trustee Art Devlin said.

The village and town board members sat around a collection of tables and for an hour-and-a-half shared their thoughts, sometimes calmly, other times harshly.

Municipal attorneys, a justice and a code enforcement officer all weighed in on the discussion, offering opinions and facts that helped guide the talk among the 10 men. Surrounding the tables in the conference room in the town hall, around 25 people sat in the audience, taking notes, bobbing heads and spouting comments at times, even though the boards reiterated they were not taking comments at this meeting.

Much was quickly agreed to in the opening minutes of the discussion. Vacation rental owners must have one parking space per bedroom, and if they don’t, they can’t rent out those other bedrooms. If rental owners sell their property, they can’t transfer over their permit to the buyer. A permit will be valid for two years. The maximum occupancy will be two people per bedroom plus two. There must be a full bathroom for every four people. Then the longer conversations began.

A discussion was held on whether owner-occupied vs. non-owner-occupied rentals should be treated differently. Those who live on the premises would have the fees waived. Those who would rent out their property for less than 14 days a year would not have to file for a permit but would still have to be up to code, like any other person renting out a home.

A long discussion centered around what the permit fee should be. Devlin wanted those who rent for a longer time to pay more, but it was decided it would be too difficult to figure that out. The discussion on the fees expanded onto how certain officials view the industry and what the municipalities’ job is. Town Councilman and supervisor candidate Derek Doty sees it as an economic driver. Village Trustee Jason Leon sees the proliferation of the industry in the village as a growing problem and wants to cut the number of people who buy houses and then rent them out. Town Councilman Jack Favro said the fee should cover the costs the fire department and code enforcement office will incur because of the added work. He said taxpayers should not have to shoulder that burden.

Eventually, a permit fee based on the number of bedrooms was decided. For each of the two years of the permit, a fee of $500 would be assessed for a house with one to two bedrooms, $1,000 for three to five bedrooms, $2,000 for six to bedrooms and $3,000 for nine and more bedrooms.

It was also discussed that the fee for a violation would depend on whether it was a repeat violation or not. For a first offense it would not be lower than $350 or higher than $1,000. The fee for the second offense would not be lower than $1,000 or higher than $3,000. The village and town would also hold the right to suspend or pull a person’s permit.

One issue, which was not agreed upon but could be decided later without stalling the drafting of new legislation, was whether to hold a moratorium after a period of time where people could apply for permits. This would limit the number of people who hold permits. The town and village did not come to an agreement. Village officials believed the moratorium would help limit the number of permit holders. Town officials didn’t disagree, but many said they wanted to wait and see what the information gathered from the code enforcement office, regarding the number of average bedrooms per building, how many rental owners there actually are, and how long they rent for, before imposing a moratorium or limits on the number of permits the village and town hand out.

“I do think we’re in agreement on everything except (the moratorium),” town Supervisor Roby Politi said.

The moratorium talk was tabled.

The town and village attorney will work on drafting new legislation in the next two weeks. Then a public hearing will be held. Town and village officials will then have an opportunity to make changes to the draft. Village attorney Janet Bliss said it would likely be in late fall that there would be a law to vote on.


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