Moratorium exceptions?

Public hearing on vacation rental moratorium exception applications scheduled May 16

LAKE PLACID — The village of Lake Placid has received its first two applications for an exemption from the village’s moratorium on issuing new short-term vacation rental permits.

A public hearing for the two variance applications is scheduled for Monday, May 16 at 4:30 p.m. in the North Elba Town Hall.

The village board in March unanimously passed a local law placing a six-month moratorium on issuing new short-term rental permits in the village of Lake Placid, one week after the North Elba Town Council voted to do the same within town boundaries. The town and village boards wanted to put a pause on new permits as they consider changes to their STR regulations. Since the village’s moratorium started at the beginning of March, the moratorium would end around the beginning of September.

Included in the local law was an allowance for variances. People can appeal to the village clerk for an exception to the moratorium if they believe it “would impose practical difficulties or extraordinary hardships” on them, according to the law. A public hearing for variance applications is required under the law before the village can approve an exception, and the village board would need to approve or deny the application within 30 days of the public hearing.

Other than providing basic information about their property, people applying for a variance have to detail whether or not the moratorium has “caused a practical difficulty or financial hardship” for them and provide a detailed analysis of that hardship. Both of the village’s two applicants are saying the moratorium could cause them financial hardship.

The applicants

The Enterprise obtained the two exception applications through a Freedom of Information Law request.

Brendan Wilson and Ann Rinaldi, of Pennsylvania, are applying for a variance for their residential property on McKinley Street. When the couple closed on their home in February, the moratorium wasn’t yet active, Wilson wrote in the application. While the couple plans to move into their home permanently within a few years, according to the application, they planned to rent it as an STR to help pay the mortgage in the meantime. Wilson wrote that he’s always seen Lake Placid as a second home, and he and Rinaldi have always wanted to find a way to move here.

Wilson added that he’s a sales representative and Rinaldi is a school teacher; without being able to rent their home as an STR, he said, the couple anticipates up to a $35,000 deficit in income that wouldn’t be sustainable for them. According to their application, Wilson and Rinaldi have already lined up a caretaker if they’re able to use their home as an STR.

David Berger, who applied for a variance under the Colorado-based company WB Builders, LLC, is asking the board to grant him an STR permit for a property on Saranac Avenue in the gateway corridor. Berger’s son was admitted to Northwood School last March, according to the application, and Berger and his wife bought the property on Saranac Avenue to renovate it and live with their son in Lake Placid for a year before using the property as an STR.

Berger wrote that his son left Northwood for Boston shortly after he started. Berger tried to transition their Lake Placid home into an STR earlier than planned, but delays in construction due to labor shortages and cost increases on construction materials led to a lengthier and more expensive construction process than anticipated. By the time Berger applied for an STR permit, he wrote, the moratorium had been active for a few days.

Berger said one of the selling points for their property on Saranac Avenue, the Stevens House, was that it was located in the gateway corridor and allowed unlimited STR opportunities. Berger said his family “are not from the area and (are) unaware of local politics or policies” — he said he didn’t know there was a moratorium on STR permits until it was too late.

Berger estimated a financial loss of between $118,300 and $150,150 if he’s not granted an STR permit before the moratorium ends. Berger wrote that he and his wife will be renting a home in New Jersey to be with their son at his new school, and that’s adding an unanticipated financial burden.

Learning process

Village Mayor Art Devlin said the village board is prepared for the first variance hearing to be a learning process.

“It’s new territory,” he said. “We’re just going to have to go in, listen to what’s going on and, between the five of us, make a gut decision on what we think. If it’s just somebody that’s not listening to what we’re doing and saying, ‘I want it anyhow,’ it’ll be no, and if it’s a legitimate case, then I think we have to approve it.”

When asked what he might consider a “legitimate” case, Devlin said he might approve a variance for someone who bought a Main Street business and planned to supplement that business with STRs. He said the village board is “gearing” itself toward the idea that Main Street would be an appropriate place for STRs.

But if someone had bought a second home in the village and applied for a variance because they wanted to rent it out as an STR, Devlin said that “probably wouldn’t fly” for him. Devlin said the whole point of the moratorium is to give the village a chance to go through the process of evaluating its STR laws.

“The bottom line is we’re trying to get a place for people to live in Lake Placid and be a community, and not be all vacation rentals and hotels,” he said.


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