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Village may take up short-term rental issue again

Homes in Greenport that are being rented on AirBnB.

Last year, the Greenport Village Board considered enacting a law to deal with short-term rentals, but never adopted it.

Now, the issue is coming up again. 

At Thursday’s Village Board meeting, Trustee Doug Roberts proposed putting a cap on the number of short-term rentals that can be issued in the village. That way, he said, “Everyone will know who is and is not allowed to operate a short-term rental.”

Mr. Roberts is hoping to start a discussion now so the village can have whatever new laws it might adopt in place for 2017.

“The goal of this is to protect reasonably priced year-round housing for people to live here and the long-term goal is to promote economic development so we don’t become a four-month per year economy,” Mr. Roberts said.

Short-term rentals is an issue that has taken route nationwide, as people use websites like Airbnb to rent their homes.

Critics say it’s a trend that’s cutting into the available stock of affordable housing in neighborhoods and brings down the quality of life, but supporters say it brings people to the area that otherwise wouldn’t have come, and helps the economy.

The proposal the Village Board considered last year defined a short-term rental as being  “less than 30 days” and required anyone seeking a short-term rental permit to undergo an inspection first, and to pay a $500 fee.

Under the proposal, short-term rentals were only permitted in the R-2 Residential zone, and only in two-family homes in that zone that are owner-operated and owner-occupied homes for the period of the rental. That means the owner of the home must be living there while the renting is taking place.

It was discussed at several public hearings but never adopted.

Trustee Mary Bess Phillips said a short-term rental cap has been proposed in other areas and there have been lawsuits.

“Short-term rentals have kind of taken over the village a little bit and long-term rentals are becoming fewer and fewer,” she said.

She said the short-term rentals are not being inspected, which is unfair to people with long-term rentals.

Ms. Phillips said it’s time for the village board to review its rental permit laws.

Trustee Julia Robins, who is a realtor, said all rentals, whether short-term or long-term, should be registered and inspected.

Ms. Robins said many landlords she’s spoken to prefer to rent their property short-term because they make more money that way and there’s less wear and tear on the house.

“Some landlords say they don’t want to tie up a house year-round, because they might want to use the house themselves in the future,” Ms. Robins said.

She added, “As a realtor, it breaks my heart to tell someone there’s nothing available, not only in the village, but throughout Southold Town.”

The village first required permits for residential rentals in 2013.

Mayor George Hubbard Jr. said last year the village sent out 325 rental permit letters and issued 37 rental permits. A total of 87 rental permit applications were made, he said.

He thinks both short-term and long-term rentals should be inspected by the village.

But he added, “Last year, we had very few complaints about short-term rentals. I don’t want to over-regulate something that isn’t an issue.”

Ms. Phillips said whether a house is rented short-term or long-term, “you are running a commercial enterprise out of that house.”

Village attorney Joe Prokop said rentals of less than 30 days are considered commercial, but anything over 30 days is considered residential under the law.

Last year Southold Town, after months of debate, passed a short-term rental law that set a minimum of 14 nights for rentals of privately owned homes. Some homeowners now have attempted to convert into B&Bs.

Photo Caption: Homes in Greenport that are being rented on Airbnb. (Credit: Airbnb.com)

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