Committee hosts public feedback sessions on short-term rental ideas
LAKE PLACID — More than 100 people attended two public feedback sessions on the Lake Placid-North Elba Land Use Code Committee’s ideas for new short-term vacation rental regulations at the Lake Placid Middle-High School this past Saturday and Monday.
The two public feedback sessions were one piece of the land use code committee’s current multi-step process for proposing new STR regulations to the town and village boards. The land use code committee also hosted a virtual public information session earlier this month to present a series of village and town maps that tie the committee’s ideas for STR regulations to specific districts in the town and village joint land use code. One of the committee’s main ideas is to prohibit unhosted STRs in densely-packed residential neighborhoods and to allow unhosted STRs in more commercial districts, like the village center and gateway corridor.
Sprawling prints of the maps were spread out over the high school’s cafeteria tables on Saturday and Monday. Some at the sessions some people were poring over the maps, trying to spot the location of their homes. Others were filing out STR surveys, which they stuffed into a ballot-like box once completed. But mostly, people were talking with various land use code committee members about their thoughts and concerns about the committee’s ideas.
The committee discussed STRs for several years before the town and village first adopted STR regulations in their land use code in 2020, according to committee member Dean Dietrich, though those regulations were never meant to be a stopping point. But when a group of STR owners raised a lawsuit against the town and village in 2020, seeking to dismantle the STR regulations, the municipalities couldn’t make any major changes to their land use code. The lawsuit was lifted this past January, and the town and village in March enacted a six-month moratorium on issuing new STR permits within their boundaries as the municipalities gather public feedback about STRs and consider changes to their STR regulations.
The land use code committee is preparing to gather a report to present to the town and village boards by July 1, according to Dietrich, which he said would include a “critical review” of public feedback provided in the surveys. He said they’d already gotten around 140 surveys, and they hadn’t yet opened the box of surveys from the two feedback sessions.
People can still submit STR surveys through May 30. The survey — along with a recording of the land use code committee’s STR maps presentation — is available online at https://tinyurl.com/2snt7r7z.
Dietrich said the committee would likely spend the “better part of June” evaluating the feedback and preparing a report for town and village boards by July 1, which would give the boards a couple of months to make their decision about how they’ll move forward before the STR moratorium ends in September.
Dietrich thought the two feedback sessions, which spanned two hours each, were successful events with “a lot of very pleasant conversations about important issues.” He said the committee wanted to make the process of coming up with STR regulations an open one that involves the Lake Placid community.
“What’s really nice about these conversations, they’re about the issues, but they’re also about how your kid’s doing and what’s up,” he said. “It has a very pleasant vibe because it’s a community event.”
Dietrich was busy talking with everyone from longtime community members to newer residents and STR owners during the sessions. He said most people thought the committee’s approach to STR regulations was logical and grounded in thought. Others disagreed with what they thought were “underlying assumptions” about STRs that motivated the committee’s ideas. Overall, Dietrich thought most people appreciated the interactive process between the committee, the public, and the town and village boards.
He said the committee’s goal when it comes to STRs is to accommodate both sides of what he called a “continuum” that exists in Lake Placid — a balance between serving residents and tourists.
“We’re trying to be reasonable and accommodate both of those things,” he said.
Dietrich gave a “shout out” to his fellow committee members, who he said jumped into conversations with community members and tried to help as much as they could.
Concerns and comments
Sheelah Lucier was filling out a survey next to a residential STR map on Monday. Her comments were already spilling onto the back page of her survey.
“I’m running out of room, actually,” she laughed.
Lucier was concerned about the committee’s idea to prohibit STRs in certain residential neighborhoods. She’s owned a home with her husband on Signal Hill since 1998, she said, and they’ve been renting it as an STR through a local rental agency. The couple is at home in Lake Placid 95% of the time, according to Lucier, but their STR is considered an unhosted rental. She thought some other STR owners in residential areas who didn’t “vet” their renters thoroughly were creating problems for people who rent their homes out responsibly.
“A few bad apples — property owners that haven’t paid attention to who they’re renting to — have made an impact on other people,” she said.
She thought the definition of “unhosted” could be divided into different categories, and she floated a “three strikes and you’re out” rule — where STRs that violated regulations three times couldn’t operate anymore. Lucier said she was adding those ideas to her STR survey.
Pranay Parsatwar and his partner were filling out an STR survey on Saturday. They’re New York City residents, and they bought a second home on Colden Avenue nearly a year ago. Colden is part of the residential area where the committee is suggesting unhosted STRs shouldn’t be allowed. Parsatwar said they didn’t see the rationale behind prohibiting unhosted STRs — they didn’t think restricting those STRs would help with the local housing crisis. Without unhosted STRs, they said, some houses could be left vacant and the upkeep of those properties might not be maintained.
Just before Monday night’s public feedback session, the village board of trustees held a public hearing for two applications for an exemption to the STR moratorium at the North Elba Town Hall. There, community members were also voicing their opinions about STRs. Shelley Reynolds, a Lake Placid resident of six years, said she appreciated the emphasis on community as the village moves through the process of creating new STR regulations.
“We don’t need to sell ourselves as a tourist attraction,” she said. “We are. The Adirondacks speaks for itself. Tourists want to come here. But we need to keep the community — they can’t come at the expense of the community.”
Reynolds said she wasn’t saying that nobody should have an STR.
“I’m saying, keep neighborhoods neighborhoods,” she said. “Keep a community a community.”
Reynolds said she was heading over to check out the land use code committee’s STR maps after the hearing.