Rental rules mean a lot to Placidians

Elected leaders of the village of Lake Placid and town of North Elba already knew local people are very interested in the issue of regulating vacation rentals, but nevertheless they got a clear reminder of that Thursday evening.

Some 50 people attended a special joint meeting of the village and town boards in which the local politicos hammered out a draft of regulations for short-term rentals. Town Supervisor Roby Politi made it clear right from the beginning that this was not a public hearing and that audience members would not get a chance to speak — that will happen later in the process. Nevertheless, that crowd stayed for the entire two-hour meeting to watch, listen, learn and witness. They did not interrupt, and while they whispered in the background, they did so at a volume that allowed others to hear the proceedings.

We hope people who weren’t at the meeting read our story in Friday’s paper about the proposed regulations and the discussion surrounding them.

Requiring minimum three-night-stays for a vacation rental permit doesn’t make sense to us, but the other rules seem reasonable for the most part — at least to us as outside observers. The writers of this editorial do not own short-term rental properties, and our homes are not surrounded by them. Local communities and their decision makers need to hear from people in both of those situations, and our reporters will work to tell their sides of the story.

The upcoming rules are a long time coming — 20 years at least. In a letter to the editor this week, Rik Cassidy wrote that the Lake Placid board discussed the issue when he was a trustee in the 1990s. Many local residents are frustrated about that delay. Why, they have said, do vacation rentals have no rules or permits while hotels, motels and bed-and-breakfasts do?

The turning point seems to have been Airbnb. The web platform made it relatively easy for anyone to rent out a room, apartment, cottage or house to vacationers. It became a favorite among vacationers worldwide, and Lake Placid, Saranac Lake and Wilmington saw some of the biggest Airbnb booms in upstate New York. Before, vacation rentals were mostly managed by a handful of local real estate agencies; suddenly there were hundreds of them, run by different people. That prompted county leaders and the Regional Office for Sustainable Tourism to start collecting occupancy taxes from vacation rentals in recent years.

Vacation rentals are a good additional option for travelers and can be a great extra stream of income for local property owners. Having multiple paychecks has been an Adirondack survival strategy for time out of mind.

But one can have too much of a good thing. If you no longer have long-term neighbors because your neighborhood is now dominated by quick-turnover rental units, you have suffered a loss — especially if those short-term renters are loud and messy. Also, safety of guests could be a concern if no one is watching. And the biggest problem with this trend is that the lure of revenue leads too many people to not sell their houses or not rent them long-term, which means the working people who make Lake Placid function face housing options that are too few and too expensive.

When vacation rentals get to that point in a community, local leaders must set some reasonable limits. That’s happening now, and it means a great to deal local people, as evidenced by the crowd at Thursday’s meeting.