A change to Southold Town’s code last year hoped to strike a balance between the businesses of short-term landlords who use websites like Airbnb to rent out their properties and the quality of life of the renters’ neighbors.
But while many landlords have shut down their operations, the code has pushed some landlords to try to classify their homes under the town’s existing bed and breakfast rules in order to keep their businesses going. On Thursday, one of those homeowners was successful.
The Southold Town Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously granted a special exception for Cutchogue resident Mary Ann Fleischmann to turn her single-family home — which she had previously rented on Airbnb — into a bed and breakfast establishment.
The ruling came with a few conditions, said Zoning Board of Appeals chair Leslie Kanes Weisman. Ms. Weisman had been concerned the home on Holden Avenue would pose a danger for drivers when the landlord’s guests back out of the driveway.
“You can’t invite the public in and then have them back down into the street,” she said.
Board member Eric Dantes said Ms. Fleischman had agreed to alter her driveway to fit the necessary parking and would have the board visit her property after the changes were made to ensure the driveway was suitable.
Mr. Dantes noted that Ms. Fleischman would rent out living space in her basement and would remain living in the home to keep it “owner-occupied,” which the bed and breakfast code requires.
While some neighbors had objected to Ms. Fleischman’s request, Mr. Dantes said the home had never been the source of quality-of-living complaints in the past.
“All I care about is that it [has a certificate of occupancy] for habitable space,” Ms. Weisman said. “It’s legal and it’s safe. The fire marshal has looked at it and it’s copacetic.”
In a previous interview with The Suffolk Times, Ms. Fleischman said she had rented out her home nearly every weekend from mid-May to mid-September in 2015, but since the town’s short-term rental law took effect last November, she has not booked a single rental.
Under the much-debated code that was passed last November, homes in Southold Town cannot be rented for less than a minimum of 14 nights per stay.
Ms. Fleischman and another homeowner, James O’Hagan of Windward Road in Orient, spoke before the Zoning Board of Appeals earlier this month, asking to be able to operate as a B&B.
On Thursday, the ZBA decided to delay making a decision on Mr. O’Hagan’s request until at least July in order to give him enough time to respond to a resident’s comment about the proposal.
Two other homeowners are asking for permission to their rental operations as a previously existing “non-conforming use,” allowing them — and other “grandfathered” short-term landlords — to rent for less than the minimum 14 nights.
Photo caption: Zoning Board of Appeals chair Leslie Kanes Weisman discusses applications before the board at its meeting Thursday evening. (Credit: Paul Squire)