Lake Placid vacation rental market continues to grow

LAKE PLACID — Around 10% of all tax parcels in the town of North Elba and village of Lake Placid now have short-term vacation rentals on site, according to Code Enforcement Officer Mike Orticelle. Data shows that the vacation rental market has grown here over the last year, and more than half of all rentals are in residential areas.

The town and village passed short-term rental regulations in March 2020 that required short term vacation rental owners in the area to have a permit. Lawmakers intended the regulations to be a starting point that they would later build upon, but shortly after passing the law, a lawsuit was brought against the town and village by a group of vacation rental owners. The lawsuit “handcuffed” the town and village from making major changes to their land-use code while it moved through the courts, according to village Mayor Art Devlin.

The plaintiffs sought to void the municipalities’ short-term rental regulations on the basis that the law “violated” the property owners’ rights. They later agreed to discontinue their case without the option to raise the lawsuit again in the future, lifting restrictions on the town and village’s ability to alter their short-term rental regulations. Now, town and village boards are exploring alterations to their STR regulations.

STR data

As of Friday, Orticelle said his office had issued around 533 permits for STRs in the town and village — that figure includes around 20 non-compliant STRs that are operating without a valid permit. Orticelle said Wednesday that the town and village Building and Planning Department planned to send out letters with fines to those STRs this week. He said Friday that some people have already responded to those violation notices.

Village GIS Map Technician Patrick Wells said that his information showed closer to 496 permits “with a little bit of wiggle room,” but that number could be excluding non-compliant rentals and including only STRs with approved or pending permits. Orticelle said the 533 count is more accurate.

Wells said that according to his data from this time last year, a few months after the permit system was first enforced in August 2020, there were around 473 permits in the town and village. That’s about 20 new permits issued in the last year, and Orticelle said that an influx of around two new permits, or new STRs, per month is typical.

“So it’s been growing, but not exponentially,” he said.

Orticelle said there are around 5,400 tax parcels “and some change” in the town and village, a number he said he received from the assessor’s office.

Around 53% of the area’s short-term rentals are in residential areas, according to Wells’s data. He said around 160 village STRs are in a residential area in the village, a zone he said is split between the Hillcrest area and Mill Pond Drive area. He said around 102 of the town’s STRs are in a town residential area, outside of the village.

The village has slightly more permitted STRs than the town, with around 266 rentals compared with the town’s 230, according to Wells. Orticelle said there are some areas — like the village center and the gateway corridor — where one property can have more than one STR permit. He gave the Main Street corridor as an example: If an apartment building there becomes an STR property, each apartment needs a permit.

Wells said his data showed that the village’s estimated 266 STRs occupy around 224 tax parcels, and the town’s estimated 239 rentals occupy around 194 parcels. He said areas in the town and village like Whiteface Inn, which is devoted to short-term rental use, could be the reason for the discrepancy between STR-occupied parcels and total STRs.

Orticelle said his department uses software that scrubs online rental sites like AirBnb and VRBO to find local STRs that aren’t permitted. When asked if some STRs could operate under the software’s radar and avoid the permit system, Orticelle said there’s a possibility some people could rent out spaces through word of mouth or private networks without getting caught.

Orticelle said there have been six complaints filed against STRs since last July.

Looking past the lawsuit

The town and village operate under a joint land-use code, but more than a year ago they amended it to allow the municipalities to make separate rules when regulating STRs.

Devlin said earlier this month that the village board had changes in mind in 2020, before the lawsuit began, and was poised to hold public hearings on the measures — mainly protecting neighborhoods — when the lawsuit stopped the board from implementing those changes.

Devlin said that adding the concept of “protected neighborhoods” to the village’s short-term rental law would forbid short-term rentals in certain residential areas, listing Greenwood Street and Johnson Avenue as hypothetical examples.

The village board hasn’t taken any further action on regulating STRs since the lawsuit ended.

A discussion about STRs is on the agenda for the North Elba Town Council’s next virtual meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 1 at 5:30 p.m.

Town Supervisor Derek Doty has said several times in the past that short-term rentals pose more of a problem within village boundaries than in the town outside of the village. He said earlier this month that he supports the village’s desire to preserve its neighborhoods for long-term residents, and he anticipates that the town council will collaborate with the village board when it comes to regulating rentals in neighborhoods located in the town, next to village neighborhoods.


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