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Officials set third public hearing on short-term rental regs

LAKE PLACID — A public hearing has been set on the latest draft of a proposed law regulating short-term vacation rentals.

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 on Wednesday.

This version, 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. A short-term rental would be defined in the land use code as a “dwelling unit” that is rented “whole or in part, to any person or entity for a period of less than 30 consecutive nights.”

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 the maximum 90-day-per-calendar-year rental period. They would also not have to adhere to several other regulations, including maximum occupancy requirements. Condominium and townhouse projects with an active homeowners’ association, as well as rentals on Main Street between the post office and Saranac Avenue, would also be exempt from many regulations.

The owner of a short-term rental property would be required to apply for a permit that would be valid for two years, but every year the owner would be required to pay a permit fee and sign a sworn statement with the Code Enforcement Office to confirm that their rental remains in compliance with the law. Only one permit can be issued for each property.

Each rental owner would be required, as part of the application, to provide the Code Enforcement Office with a site plan showing the location of required parking spaces and, if the property isn’t served by a public sewer system, the location of the property’s septic system and leach field. If the septic system is private, an inspection report dated within 90 days of the owner’s permit application would be required. The owner, or a proxy, would have to provide their contact information. Either the owner or a property manager would have to be located within 60 minutes of the rental by car, and would have to be available around the clock, seven days a week.

In addition to the creation of a permit system, and the creation of a new five-member short-term rental appeals board to deal with disputes, the law includes a variety of other regulations.

The law would impose a maximum occupancy period. If adopted, no short-term rental property could be rented for more than 90 days each calendar year. There is no maximum number of nights for a single stay.

A rental that’s occupied for 14 days or less in a calendar year wouldn’t have to pay a permit fee but would still need a permit.

A permit fee structure is expected to be adopted separate from this law.

Property owners would be required to prominently display their permits and provide renters with packets outlining local rules as well as “Good Neighbor Guidelines.”

The law also imposes some restrictions on visitors’ use of rental properties. For example, renters would not be allowed to camp overnight in tents outside on the property, and any outdoor events hosted on the property would need to end by 10 p.m.

A three-night minimum stay requirement was the most controversial aspect of the first version of the law. That was dropped in March 2019.

The new version of the law gives the town council the authority, without the village board’s approval, to adopt revisions to the joint law that apply only in the town outside the village. The village board would have the same authority within its boundary. Town and village officials have indicated that they may set different maximum occupancy limits in the future.

(CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated — based on a version of the law that had been updated since Jan. 24 — that owner-occupied short-term vacation rentals would not be required to obtain a permit prior to listing their property. In the Feb. 10 version of the law, rental owners who live on the property would be required to secure a permit but would not have to adhere to the maximum 90-day-per-calendar-year rental period.)