Lake Placid officials unveil final draft of STR rules
LAKE PLACID — The final draft of proposed updates to the Lake Placid-North Elba joint short-term vacation rental law was released on Monday.
The new draft STR regulations, if adopted, would essentially ban any new STRs from certain residential areas, cap the number of permits that would be issued in the town and start a waitlist for when the cap is exceeded, increase fines for STR law violations, change the definition of a hotel/motel and require that STR permits be renewed once a year, among many other changes.
The new draft STR regulations are the culmination of years of work from town and village boards and the Lake Placid-North Elba Land Use Code Committee, a group created to study the impact of STRs. The regulations, if adopted, would bring the first major changes to the municipalities’ STR law since it was first adopted in 2020.
On Tuesday, North Elba Town Councilor Emily Kilburn Politi, a member of the land use code committee, said that the most significant change she sees in the proposed STR regulations is the decision to prohibit “unhosted” rentals in town and village residential districts. An unhosted rental is an STR where the owner isn’t required to be a local resident or to stay overnight in the rental while it’s being rented. Kilburn Politi anticipated that the change would likely be the subject of most people’s comments during a public hearing on the regulations at the end of this month.
The town and village boards have to hold a public hearing on the draft STR regulations before they can become law. The municipalities will hold a joint public hearing on the proposed regulations at 6 p.m. on Nov. 29 at the Conference Center in Lake Placid.
While the town and the village boards have the power to create separate STR regulations — and while the boards have released separate drafts of new regulations over the last few months, the two boards opted to combine their regulations into one draft law.
“It’s just more confusing for the public and for administration to have two,” Kilburn Politi said. “And so, when we both got to the same point (with our regulations), we were ready for it to be back together again, so it was perfect.”
The new draft law also comes with a proposed amendment to the town and village’s zoning map. To accommodate the new STR law, the town and village want to redistrict 48 parcels of property on Deerwood Trail and Quail Lane. If the proposed STR law and amendment are approved, unhosted STRs wouldn’t be allowed on these 48 properties.
People can attend the public hearing for the proposed STR law and zoning amendment in person or virtually at meet.goto.com/lpv, or by dialing 1-872-240-3212 and entering the access code 690-687-301. The proposed regulations are available online at tinyurl.com/bdcnbubm.
North Elba town Supervisor Derek Doty and village Mayor Art Devlin said that feedback during the public hearing has the power to alter the STR law as proposed, and Kilburn Politi said she expects a good turnout at the hearing. The public hearings for the first STR law in 2020 drew hundreds of people to the Conference Center.
The new STR law would delete the terms “bed and breakfast” and “rooming/boarding house” from the town and village’s joint land use code, a change board members hope will prevent people from skirting STR regulations in the future. Kilburn Politi said most people who have applied for these designations in recent years aren’t actually running boardinghouses or bed and breakfasts in the traditional sense — they’re really running STRs.
The definition of “hotel/motel” would be changed with the new regulations. While the current law’s definition of a hotel/motel doesn’t specify a minimum number of units available for rent, the new law would say that hotels/motels are properties that offer at least five units for short-term renters. The new definition would ensure that anyone renting more than four STRs on one property would have to register as a hotel in districts where hotels are allowed.
The new law also proposes changing the definition of “change in ownership.”
As local officials drafted these proposed STR regulations, there was some back-and-forth between board members — mainly on the village board — and STR owners about what constitutes a “change in ownership.” When officials were deciding how they’d phase unhosted rentals out of residential neighborhoods, they landed on making unhosted permits non-transferrable with any change in ownership. STR owners of unhosted rentals pushed back against the village’s original proposal to include property transfers to children as a “change in ownership,” but the draft law still upholds those types of transfers as a change in ownership.
Under the new definition, a “change in ownership” would include a transfer of property by deed, among members of an LLC, among partners in a business partnership, or among shareholders. That means an STR permit wouldn’t transfer when a person transfers or leaves their home to a child unless the child’s name was on the property’s deed.
The town and village would still continue to require STR permits under the new law. People would be required to renew their STR permit once a year for their permit to remain valid, and it wouldn’t be transferable with a change of ownership of the property.
Only one STR permit would be allowed per property, with some exceptions. In the town, properties with road frontage on Cascade Road, Wilmington Road, Saranac Avenue, Old Military Road and state Route 86 would be eligible for multiple STR permits. There would be no limits to how many STR permits someone could apply for per property in those districts.
In the village, properties in the village center district, the gateway corridor and Main Street from Brewster Park to the North Elba Town Hall would be eligible for more than one STR permit per property. However, properties with three or more units in these districts would have to have one long-term rental for every two STRs.
Kilburn Politi said permit fees might increase at some point, but she said the town and village boards would have to pass a separate resolution to raise the fees.
People applying for a permit in the town or village would still be required to list a “contact person” who lives within 60 minutes of the STR. The draft STR law also specifies that applicants with septic systems should submit an inspection dated within two years of their application date.
The draft law also solidifies some STR house rules. Campfires would have to be extinguished by 9:30 p.m., and the new draft law explicitly prohibits fireworks.
While occupancy limitations remain largely the same between the current STR law and the proposed law, the draft law specifies that the maximum number of people allowed at an STR from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. shouldn’t be more than twice the number of overnight occupants allowed at any given STR. Events would be required to end by 10 p.m., except in the village’s residential districts, where events at STRs would be prohibited.
If the draft STR law is passed, a list of STR permits and the permit holder’s information — which would be limited to their permit number, physical address, maximum occupancy and the number of parking spaces — would be published and updated on the town of North Elba website every quarter.
North Elba’s section of the proposed STR law is nearly identical to the town’s last draft of STR regulations, released in September.
Under the draft law, STR permits in the town, outside of the village, are categorized into three types: lodging permits, unhosted permits and “hosted” permits — permits for STR owners who live in the town at least 184 days a year and stay at their STR overnight while it’s being rented.
The number of hosted and unhosted permits issued would be capped in the town, and the number of lodging permits issued would be unlimited. There would be no limits on the number of days an STR could be rented per year within the town, outside of the village.
Lodging permits would only be available in areas where the town board decided it wanted to allow for more STR growth, including properties with street-facing lots in the Old Military Road corridor and street-facing lots in the “gateway corridor,” which includes Cascade Road, Wilmington Road, Saranac Avenue and state Route 86 in Ray Brook. STR owners in existing condominiums and town homes, or in properties in the Whiteface Inn planned development, could also get a lodging permit if they’re part of an active homeowners association. There are currently 56 properties with permits in the town’s proposed lodging district, according to the town’s last draft of STR regulations in September.
Unhosted permits would be capped at 165 permits — up 15 from the latest count of 150 unhosted permits — and would only be allowed in the Rural Countryside district (excluding Deerwood Trail and Quail Lane, which are proposed as being rezoned to town residential), the North Lake and South Lake residential districts, on lots without road frontage in the Old Military corridor and on lots in the gateway corridor without road frontage on Cascade Road, Wilmington Road, Saranac Avenue or state Route 86.
Unhosted permits would no longer be allowed in residential areas, which the town identified as “non-compatible districts” for STRs — the town residential districts, village residential districts within the town and residential planned developments, including Fawn Valley, the Peaks at Lake Placid, MacKenzie Overlook and Fawn Ridge II. Existing unhosted STR permits in these areas would still be valid and could be renewed until there’s a change in ownership of the property. No new unhosted STR permits would be issued in non-compatible districts.
Hosted permits would be allowed in any district under the proposed STR law. Hosted permits would be capped at 48 permits; 38 hosted permits have already been issued in the town, according to the town’s last STR draft. To qualify for a hosted permit, property owners would have to live in the area for 184 days a year and stay overnight at the STR whenever it’s rented out. Hosted renters would need to provide “satisfactory proof” of residency with something like a driver’s license or voter registration.
Hosted and unhosted rentals in the town would have to be rented out for a minimum of 14 days per year, according to the draft.
Under the proposed law, the town would start a waitlist for both unhosted and hosted permits through the Building and Planning Department. Someone would be eligible for the waitlist only if they were the owner of the property of the proposed STR. STR permits would be issued in chronological order of the “complete and accurate submission” of a waitlist form and a copy of the most recent deed of the prospective STR property. Once selected from the waitlist, according to the draft law, the applicant would have 14 days to apply for their permit; if they miss the two-week window, they’ll lose their spot on the waitlist.
The village’s proposed STR regulations have changed significantly since the last draft. While the village’s last draft only split rentals into unhosted and hosted categories, the latest proposed STR law splits the village’s STR permits into four categories: unhosted, hosted, lodging and Main Street rentals.
Unhosted rentals would be the only permit in the village with a cap on nights an STR could be rented per year — 90 nights all together. The rest of the permits allow unlimited rental nights per year.
Unhosted permits wouldn’t be issued anymore in residential districts within the village. STR owners with existing unhosted permits in residential districts could renew their permits until there’s a change in ownership of the property, as redefined in the draft law.
Lodging permits would be allowed in the village center, the gateway corridor district, the Old Military Road corridor, in the Placid Gold LLC planned development, at the Crowne Plaza resort, the Mirror Lake Inn, or within existing condos and town home developments where the STR owner is a member of the homeowners association. Lodging permits wouldn’t be designated as unhosted or hosted in these districts, and there wouldn’t be a limit on how many nights per year an STR could be rented or how many permits could be issued in these districts.
On Main Street, from Brewster Park to the North Elba Town Hall, the draft law states that street-level properties can’t be used as STRs. Village officials have said that they want to encourage commercial businesses, not STRs, along Main Street’s ground floor. The 2-to-1 STR to long-term rental ratio would apply to these permits, when a property has more than three units. A Main Street STR permit wouldn’t designate between hosted and unhosted permit holders, and the STRs in this district could be rented for an unlimited number of nights per year.
Hosted permits would be allowed in any district in the village — the village residential, town residential, South Lake residential, village center, Gateway corridor and Old Military corridor districts — and they could be rented an unlimited number of nights per year. People applying for hosted permits would need to meet the same residency requirements as those in the town.
The new draft law bumps up the fees for violations to the STR law — the first violation would have a fine or civil penalty of no less than $1,000, and the code enforcement officer would charge no less than $2,000 for a second violation within five years of the first and no less than $3,000 for a third violation within five years of the first.
Under the draft law, violations can carry civil penalties as well as criminal penalties, which are the only penalties the code enforcement officer has been able to issue under the current regulations. Code enforcement officers and other local officials have said it’s been hard to enforce the current STR laws because it’s difficult and time-consuming to see criminal cases through in court.
The town and village were planning to join forces in an effort to strengthen enforcement of STR regulations by redistributing responsibilities in the Building and Planning Department and creating an “STR compliance monitor” position. Kilburn Politi said that an existing employee in the Building and Planning Department has been charged with an “advanced role” in overseeing STR compliance.
Read the full proposed law here: