Vacation rentals pushing me out

It has been with great interest reading articles in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise about the hearing on short-term vacation rental regulations in Lake Placid.

Affordable housing has been talked about and reported on for years, yet few concrete steps have been taken to resolve concerns. It’s hard to understand why one local official was disappointed that this issue was hardly addressed at the hearing. Residents have sent letters, spoken to public officials not just about housing but about all the issues of short-term vacation rentals. Some of our concerns were even highlighted in the August 2018 Adirondack Life magazine. Yet our voices have fallen on deaf ears. The negative effects of these short-term rentals are heartbreaking. As the backbone of this community, housing costs, property taxes and a diminished quality of life in our neighborhoods are crushing the year-round residents. I live in the Hillcrest area, where very few year-round residents can afford to purchase a home. It was once a charming model of a safe, family-friendly neighborhood and now has become unrecognizable. As my house is on the edge of Hillcrest park, it is disconcerting to look out your window and see more adults holding red Solo cups than there are children playing.

In the past six months, the neighboring house, which is well known by many for the poor behaviors of its guests, was sold. After months of renovation, the house is once again being rented. The large hot tub, a few feet from my bedroom windows, remains. The new owner is confident disruptive behaviors are in the past. I am doubtful, and this past weekend my doubts were confirmed. Like every homeowner in Lake Placid, I also received the reassessment of my house, which alerted me to an increase of $248,100 between 2017 and 2018. My house is now assessed at $427,600. This calculates into an increase in property taxes of $3,062.82. In 2019 the county tax alone will go up from $833.38 to $1,969.28 (an increase of $1,135.90). I could have grieved my assessment; however, the comps would say this is what my house should be assessed at. I always felt this was my forever home. Now I’m not so sure.

Voters expect public officials to represent their interests and to help assure a good future for their community. That has not happened with regard to the short-term rentals. Our community has lost so much already and will lose much more if we wait another five years, as Supervisor Politi has suggested, to “redefine areas so that we can develop a situation where everyone is happy.”

We only have to look to Lake George to see a community where the public officials knew what was best for their year-round residents. The village has always prohibited short-term rentals in residential zones. When it was noticed there were about three dozen illegally rented homes, village officials chose to enforce their rules and regulations. Many of the owners of these illegal rentals then made the decision to sell. Mayor Blais has been quoted as saying, “We want people living in our community year round … joining the rescue squad, being in the fire department. … Vacant houses used by renters don’t make for a good community spirit. We want children going to our schools. We want them to participate in our civic activities. … It took some time (to regulate), and it aggravated a lot of people, but you have to remember, politically, the guy screaming at me from Newburgh, N.Y., and who doesn’t live here and doesn’t vote here, I’m not going to listen to him as much as Mr. and Mrs. Jones who have lived here all their life.”

Everyone should be encouraged to visit Lake Placid and the Adirondacks. To see its beauty and all it has to offer. Year-round residents are very aware that tourists are needed for economic vitality — yet not at the expense of the financial stability and quality of life of those who live here.

Living in a rural Adirondack town can be a challenge. The lure of a more urban life, warmer climates and the opportunity to own a home draw too many of our young people away. Local officials should work as hard to keep our young people here as they do to get tourists to visit. Our children are the future decision-makers of Lake Placid and the Adirondacks. They are the ones who will be given the task of keeping this a great place to live as well as a wonderful place to visit.

We hope the public officials will hold another well-publicized forum, and that every year-round resident will be motivated to attend and speak up. Is it too late or will this time our voices be heard? We beseech our officials to work to resolve the crisis of affordable housing — so that we will all be ABLE to live in our community — and to define short-term rental regulations that will not compromise our community’s quality of life.

It probably is possible for year-round residents and short-term vacation rentals to live in harmony, but the right model needs to be found. Lake Placid had the time and opportunity to figure out what the model could be; however, they did not. At this time we must accept the new rules and regulations and hope for the best.

Sheila Tavares lives in Lake Placid.