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Cuomo seeks ‘balance’ on short-term rentals

Gov. Cuomo addresses reporters in February at the Hotel Saranac in Saranac Lake. (Enterprise photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

SARANAC LAKE — Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the state is still trying to “find the right balance” when it comes to short-term vacation rentals in New York.

“The Airbnbs, and how to handle the Airbnb market, is something that the entire country is trying to deal with,” he said. “It’s something we’re working on all across the state. It poses different challenges in different parts of the state.

“But they’re private-sector businesses, so they have the right to operate at the same time. We’re trying to find the right balance.”

Cuomo was asked about the state’s role in regulating the short-term vacation rental market following a press conference at the Hotel Saranac Sunday.

The tourism industry has continued to grow in the North Country region, especially in the village of Lake Placid and the High Peaks Wilderness areas. With that increased traffic has come more demand for accommodations. This past weekend was Presidents Day weekend — typically one of the busiest weekends of the winter for tourism here. Events celebrating the 40th anniversary of the 1980 Olympic Winter Games were also held on both Saturday and Sunday. Saranac Lake also saw an uptick in tourism this weekend, with the Ice Palace from the previous week’s Winter Carnival swarmed with visitors throughout Saturday and Sunday.

Cuomo said Sunday that the group of people who traveled with him to the Adirondacks “could not find a hotel room anywhere between here and Lake George.

“I feel very badly for them. But I’m happy for the North Country because it means a lot of people are coming and there’s a lot of economic activity.”

Cuomo’s comments on tourism and short-term vacation rentals came as the village of Lake Placid and the town of North Elba prepare to host a public hearing on the latest draft of proposed short-term vacation rental regulations.

Concerns over the number of short-term rentals in the village of Lake Placid, particularly the increasing number in traditionally residential areas, have continued to mount for more than a decade. Some year-round residents blame the rise of the online short-term vacation rental market for the worsening shortage of affordable housing, while others say offering up their homes on websites like Airbnb is the only way they’re able to afford to keep their homes.

This version of the village and town’s joint law, the third draft proposed in the last year, would require those who rent out their properties on sites such as Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway to apply for and secure a permit. It would also require rental owners to limit the number of visitors who stay on site, and ensure there’s adequate off-street parking and septic capacity to serve those visitors. Among the biggest changes in this version of the law: Town and village officials have differentiated between short-term rentals that are “owner-occupied” and those that aren’t. People who live on their property for “at least 275 days per calendar year” and are “on premises from 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. during the term of each rental” would still be required to obtain a permit prior to listing their property, but they would not have to adhere to a proposed maximum 90-day-per-calendar-year rental period.

The North Elba Town Council and Lake Placid Village Board have set the public hearing for 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 25 at the Conference Center. The latest draft of the proposed law was published on both municipalities’ websites last week.

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