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Lake Placid short-term rental rules will be law

Village board passes it, barely; rental owners must apply for permits within 90 days of adoption

LAKE PLACID — New short-term rental regulations will be imposed here in the Adirondack Park’s busiest tourist destination.

The village Board of Trustees on Monday voted narrowly to approve a slate of new rules for short-term vacation rentals. The North Elba Town Council approved the rules last week. After the law is filed with the state, property owners will have 90 days to apply for a permit to continue to rent out rooms and homes to visitors.

This decision by the village board sets in motion regulations that have been under discussion — and intense scrutiny by both residents and non-residents who own property here — for more than a year. In the last 13 months, lawmakers have hosted three public hearings on different versions of this law. Collectively, those public hearings drew more than 500 attendees and 125 speakers.

The now-adopted law requires those who rent out their properties on sites such as Airbnb, Vrbo and HomeAway to get permits. It also requires them 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. The law also imposes a 90-day occupancy limit for rentals owned by non-residents that are located in certain areas.

The version of the law adopted by the village and town was altered in several ways from the version that the public weighed in on at the latest public hearing.

A controversial measure that differentiates between short-term rentals that are “owner-occupied” and those that aren’t was modified. It would have allowed rental owners who live on their property for “at least 275 days per calendar year” — and who are on premises from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. during the term of each rental — to skirt a maximum 90-day-per-calendar-year rental period was changed. Now the law says people who live in their rental for at least 184 days per year, and are present “overnight” during each rental, don’t have to adhere to the 90-day maximum occupancy limit.

Also, whereas the February version of the law would have eliminated “rooming/boarding house” as a conditional use possibility in the land use code, the latest version would keep the conditional use but alter the definition of “boarding house” to include only “owner-occupied” buildings that are rented out.

The law also adds more areas where rentals are exempt from the 90-day occupancy limit. In the February version of the law, rentals located in the “village center district” along Main Street, between the post office and Brewster Park were exempt. That was extended to include rentals along Wilmington Road, Cascade Road, Old Military Road, Sentinel Road and Saranac Avenue.

Local officials are only required by law to hold another public hearing on a law if the changes to the law are deemed “substantial.” These changes were not deemed so.

Village Trustee Jason Leon on Monday asked that the village postpone voting on these new vacation rental regulations as the state imposes new regulations on public places such as restaurants, theaters and bars, designed to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus and encourage social distancing, and as the pandemic prompts many tourists to cancel travel plans.

“I think we should table this until after what’s going on in the world is over,” he said.

But his motion to delay was ultimately defeated. Trustee Scott Monroe backed Leon, but Trustees Peter Holderied and Art Devlin voted against postponing their decision on the law. Mayor Craig Randall cast the deciding vote against Leon’s request.

The village board voted to make a negative SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review) declaration — signaling their belief that the law would have little to no environmental impact — along those same lines.

Devlin moved to pass the short-term rental regulations, and Holderied seconded his motion. Leon and Monroe voted against, Devlin and Holderied voted for, and the mayor once again cast a tie-breaking vote to approve the law.

A full version of the law is available for viewing online at northelba.org under “public notices.”

The village board on Monday also voted to send out a request for proposals seeking a company to help the village update its comprehensive plan and land use code.

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