Greenport Village Board adopts rental law

CYNDI MURRAY FILE PHOTO | The village adopted its rental law by a 3-2 vote Monday night.

Greenport Village Board members narrowly passed a controversial rental regulation law during its regular session Monday night.

Following a public hearing at which the legislation was called unconstitutional by critics, board members voted 3-2 in favor of the law — with trustees George Hubbard and Mary Bess Phillips voting in opposition.

“It seems like the common comment is that the village needs to enforce the code already on the books,” Mr. Hubbard said before the vote.

The village took up the bill more than four years ago, Mayor David Nyce said. Village officials have said the code would help eliminate illegal apartments, which can lead to excessive traffic, parking problems, a strain on municipal services and general public health and safety concerns.

Under the proposal, a family is defined as two or more persons related by blood and up to five persons not related by blood occupying a dwelling and living together as a traditional family.

At previous public hearings, critics called the law cruel, unjust and over the top. Furthermore, many argued the constitutionality of a provision in the law permitting the village to search rental properties it deems in violation.

Tanya Palmore of the North Fork Housing Alliance said the policy makes tenants “prisoners” at the property they rent.

“Not everyone can afford to be a homeowner,” she said. “They shouldn’t be treated differently.”

Her sentiments were echoed in a letter submitted during the public hearing from Long Island Housing Services, a Bohemia-based affordable housing advocacy group, which questioned the criteria used to determine occupancy such as the number of beds, vehicles and even satellite dishes outside the residence.

Village attorney Joe Prokop said he believes Long Island Housing Services misunderstood the local law.

Speakers weren’t swayed by Mr. Prokop’s analysis. Residents voiced concerns about the establishment of a licensing review board, a five-member committee appointed by the Mayor, and approved by the village board. The new committee will be charged with monitoring rental issues, according to the law.

“Is this going to be a diverse committee or a committee of your friends?” asked Linnet Street resident Barry Latney.

While no speaker favored the law, Mayor Nyce supported the legislation.

“It think it is well written,” he said. “If the laws on the books worked, we wouldn’t need this. All this is looking to do is keep rental properties safe.”

Violators of the law will be fined up to $5,000, according to the bill.

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