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State Supreme Court ruling backs town’s short-term rental law

A state Supreme Court Justice has dismissed a Greenport woman’s lawsuit seeking to overturn a 2016 Southold Town Zoning Board of Appeals ruling related to the short-term rental law. The court rejected her claim that renting her home for fewer than 14 days should be permitted as a grandfathered use.

Lisa Cradit of Greenport had gone before the ZBA last year to argue that a home she owns on Sound Road in Greenport should not fall under the town’s 2015 law banning residential rentals of fewer than 14 days on the grounds that she had been renting the home in that manner since 2014.

As a result, Ms. Cradit contends that the use is permitted by state law, which allows uses to continue if they existed before approval of an ordinance or zone change disallowing them.

In a decision rendered last Thursday, however, state Supreme Court Justice Arthur Pitts acknowledged that a use that existed prior to a new zoning ordinance can continue only if that use was legal when it was initiated.

He said the argument that the use is permitted because there was nothing in the code prohibiting it is “without merit,” because the town code specifies that “any use not permitted by this chapter shall be deemed to be prohibited.”

Salem Katsh, an attorney for Ms. Cradit, said his client hasn’t decided whether she will appeal the court ruling, but if she does, “I’m sure the appellate division will reverse this ruling. This is one of the strongest cases I’ve ever litigated.”

“The ruling doesn’t surprise me,” Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said in an email. “I said from the beginning, the law is fair and defensible. The town has a right to adopt code that regulates land use especially when commercial uses like short-term rentals start operating in residential communities. We had an obligation to address it on behalf of homeowners. We did.”

The ZBA last year rejected that contention, pointing out that the section of town code dealing with uses that existed before a code change only allow uses that were “legally existing on the effective date” of the new law.

The ZBA’s ruling stated that the town code “prohibits any use not expressly permitted.” It said short-term rentals “are not, and have never been, permitted uses” in the property’s R-40 zoning district.

Ms. Cradit went to court last fall seeking to overturn the ZBA ruling, pointing out that, prior to 2015, there had never been any law in Southold Town “expressly prohibiting, regulating, or even mentioning the subject of single-family home rentals.”

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