Southold Town Board declines to pass short-term rental law

The Southold Town Board is sending its short-term rental law back to the town’s code committee.

Town Supervisor Scott Russell said Tuesday that the wide range of opinions and suggestions offered by the more than 30 speakers at a 2 1/2 hour hearing June 2 has forced the town to take another look at the bill.

“We’ve heard from a lot of people and the Town Board has discussed it and we’ve decided to send it back to committee,” Mr. Russell said at the start of Tuesday’s meeting. The board later unanimously approved a motion to send the local law back to the town code committee.

The proposed town code amendment would have limited rentals in residentially zoned properties to a seven-night minimum if approved.

Mr. Russell said after the meeting he will ask the code committee, of which he is a member, to consider extending that length of time to 14 nights.

For months the town has been in the process of legislating short-term rentals, which have been causing concern amid a growing number of websites such as that allow homeowners to lease their houses for as little as one or two nights.

The reluctance to approve the amendment Tuesday means a law will likely not be on the books this fall. Once the town’s code committee makes its revisions, another hearing will need to be held. Once the resolution is finally approved, the law will not go into effect for another 60 days.

Peconic resident Peter Terranova thanked the Town Board for sending the amendment back to the code committee.

“Had the local law been passed tonight I would have said that since home rentals of less than 30 days is considered a business by Suffolk County the town … would be sending a signal that residential zones are now open for business,” he said.

Anne Murray of East Marion seconded Mr. Terranova’s sentiment.

“We really need to have permits for this,” she said. “There’s nothing as this law is written that would prevent a hedge fund from buying up homes and starting a rental business.”

Mr. Russell said not all the points made during the public hearing can be considered when the law is kicked back to the code committee. He pointed to recommendations that the town create a rental registry and conducting an economic analysis as being infeasible.

“The data doesn’t exist,” he said.

The issue will be discussed at the town’s next code committee, Mr. Russell said. The date of that meeting has not yet been set.

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