Lake Placid denies two STR moratorium exemption applications

LAKE PLACID — The village Board of Trustees on Tuesday unanimously voted against two applications for an exception from the village’s moratorium on issuing new short-term vacation rental permits.

The village board held a special meeting on Tuesday to vote on the two applications. One application was from New Jersey resident David Berger for a property on Saranac Avenue; the other was from Pennsylvania residents Brendan Wilson and Ann Rinaldi for their property on McKinley Street.

The village board and the North Elba Town Council passed local laws at the beginning of March activating a six-month moratorium on issuing new STR permits as the boards consider changes to their STR regulations. Included in the local laws is an allowance for variances, or exceptions, to the moratorium. 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.

The village board is required to hold a public hearing for each variance application it receives, and board members are required to either approve or deny variance applications within 30 days of the public hearing.

The village Board of Trustees discussed the two applications at its work session at the beginning of this month, and the majority of the board members voiced opposition to the applications.

The village has received a third application for a variance from Lake Placid residents Andrea and Louis Iakovidis, but the village board didn’t take any action to approve or deny that application Tuesday. The board has until July 6 to vote on the application from the Iakovidises.

The applicants

Berger asked the board to grant him an STR permit for a property on Saranac Avenue in the gateway corridor. He told the board during May’s public hearing that if he’s not granted an STR permit, he wouldn’t be able to recoup the “hundreds and thousands” of dollars he’s spent renovating the property. 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, who said he lives in New Jersey, bought the property after his son was admitted to Northwood School in March of last year. Berger and his wife planned to live there for a year while their son went to school before using the house as an STR, but his son left Northwood shortly after starting and Berger decided to use the home as an STR sooner than planned. When he applied for the permit, Berger said in May, the moratorium had been in place for a few days. Berger said he hadn’t known there was a moratorium coming up.

Wilson and Rinaldi applied for a variance for their home on McKinley Street. When they closed on their home in February, the moratorium wasn’t yet active. While the couple plans to move into their home permanently within three to four years, Wilson told the board in May, they planned to rent it as an STR to help pay the mortgage in the meantime. He said the couple planned to stay in the home sometimes, too. Wilson estimated that they’d be losing around $25,000 if they weren’t able to rent the property throughout the moratorium.

Findings of fact, conclusions

Tuesday’s special meeting was brief. The village board didn’t hold any further discussion on the applications. The board was represented by village attorney Janet Bliss, who had composed documents containing the board’s “findings of fact” and conclusions about the two applications.

Based on 15 findings of fact about the Berger application — which ranged from the fact that he purchased his home in 2021 for “well over a million dollars” to the fact that his application’s financial analysis showed a loss of income but not expenses — the village board voted against Berger’s request for a moratorium exemption.

The board concluded that Berger couldn’t apply for an STR permit, with or without the current moratorium, because he doesn’t have a certificate of occupancy for the property.

The board also concluded that he’s lived here long enough — since May 2021 — to know the moratorium was coming and to apply for a permit before it was activated; that there was public notice about the moratorium; that Berger knew he needed a permit to rent the property as an STR; that he didn’t show “with competent financial evidence” that he had no other opportunity for a “reasonable” financial return at the property for permissible uses; that there are only three months left in the moratorium, while Berger’s application accounted for a financial loss across all six months; and that Berger only presented six-month estimates of revenue based on potential “highest and best use” of the property without listing any other possible income that could be made there.

Based on 12 findings of fact about the Rinaldi/Wilson application that ranged from the fact that the property is a second home to the fact that no actual or alleged lost rent income was presented, the village board denied the Rinaldi/Wilson variance application.

The board found that because Wilson said he and Rinaldi would use the home during the summer months, the moratorium wouldn’t “change their stated intended use of the property” over the next three months. There are around three months left in the moratorium on new STR permits, which ends at the beginning of September.

The board also concluded that Rinaldi and Wilson knew they needed to get an STR permit for the property when they purchased it and that they didn’t show “with competent financial evidence” that they had no other opportunity for a “reasonable” financial return at the property for permissible uses.


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