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Following Town’s footsteps, Greenport closing in on short-term rental law

10/13/2015 4:16 PM |

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After almost a year of discussion, Greenport Village’s proposed short-term rental law is ready for prime time. 

The village posted a copy of the proposed law on its website Tuesday and is likely to discuss it at Thursday’s Board of Trustees work session, according to Mayor George Hubbard Jr.

“People say it’s a huge problem,” Mr. Hubbard said. “We want to regulate it. We want to keep long-term rentals around here and we’re trying to stop people from buying spec houses and just converting everything into Airbnb’s. That was the intention of it. We want to try to make sure we have enough rentals for families that want to live and work in the area.”

Airbnb is one of several websites that allow people to rent their home on a short-term basis. The issue has been a concern both locally and nationally. Southold Town recently approved its own law regulating short-term rentals to a 14-night minimum.

“There are many village residents who are concerned,” said Trustee Mary Bess Phillips, a member of Greenport’s code committee. “It’s a topic that’s been in the newspaper and in the Town of Southold and all over the place. It’s not an issue just in the Village of Greenport; it’s a nationwide issue.”

The stated intent of the Greenport proposal is “to preserve the availability of residential housing units in the Village of Greenport and to maintain the essentially residential character of the Village of Greenport while at the same time addressing the demand for short-term housing and allowing the homeowners of the Village of Greenport to benefit economically from the seasonal need for periods of short-term transient lodging.”

The proposal defines a short-term rental as “less than 30 days” and requires anyone seeking a permit to undergo an inspection. Payment of a $500 annual permit fee is required.

Under the proposal, short-term rentals would be allowed only in the R-2 residential zone, which permits one- and two-family homes and encompasses a large portion of the village. Short-term rentals would be permitted only in two-family homes in that zone that are owner-operated and owner-occupied for the period of the rental, meaning the owner of the home must be living there while the rental is taking place.

The maximum occupancy of any building with a short-term rental, including both dwellings, would be 10 people, under the proposal.

A “dwelling unit” is defined as a building or a self-contained portion of a building with its own cooking or bathroom facilities. Hotels, rooming houses, fraternity houses, inns, house trailers or nursing homes are not considered “dwelling units.”

Public hearings are required before the law can be adopted.

Southold Town’s recently enacted law does not require a homeowner to also live in the house with the renter.

Trustee Doug Roberts said he doesn’t support the current proposal. He said he objected to the owner-occupied requirement and felt the proposal didn’t take into account the public’s feeling.

“Someone couldn’t go on vacation and rent their house while they’re gone,” he said.

The trustees had asked for public comments on the issue at their meetings in January, February and March and those comments were sent to the village code committee, which drew up the proposal that was sent to the trustees for discussion, Mr. Hubbard said.

Mr. Roberts said he’d like to call for a public hearing to eliminate Greenport’s entire rental permit law, which was adopted in September of 2013.

In the two-and-a-half years since it was adopted, he said, “it hasn’t been implemented or enforced. I think it’s a disincentive to renting year-round.”

That law passed by only a 3-2 margin in 2013.

“I think we should examine it,” Trustee Jack Martilotta said of Mr. Roberts’ suggestion. “It’s been on the books for close to two years and hasn’t really been implemented. It’s something we have to look at. The way it is now, it’s not working.”

Mr. Hubbard voted against creating the rental permit law in 2013.

“We’re not going to throw it out without something else in place,” he said. “You need a plan in place first.”

Photo Caption: Greenport Village Trustee Doug Roberts (third from left) and other residents listen as an attendee of an August roundtable discussion shares her thoughts on short-term rentals. (Credit: Nicole Smith, file)

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