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Changes expected to Greenport’s proposed short-term rental law

After hearing about 90 minutes worth of comments both for and against limiting short-term rentals, the Greenport Village Board closed the public hearing on its latest version of the law Thursday night and will likely make some changes to it.

“We have a lot of input on it, and we’ll have discussions and see where we’re going,” Mayor George Hubbard Jr. said.

He said one likely change is removing a requirement that some proposed short-term rentals that are not owner-occupied go before the Village Planning Board for a public hearing before getting approved.

Some speakers said that would likely lead to lawsuits if the Planning Board approves one short-term rental but not another.

“We’ve been talking about this for five or six years,” Mr. Hubbard said.

The village does have a law requiring all residential rental units to obtain a permit and pass inspection, but it has yet to agree on a law specifically targeting short-term rentals.

The village is one of the few East End municipalities without a law on short-term rentals.

The proposal discussed at Thursday’s public hearing defines short-term rental as fewer than 14 days, and long-term rental at least one year. The short-term rental of a residential property will be considered a conditional use, which requires approval by the Village Planning Board, as well as a public notice and public hearing, according to the proposal.

The exception, which would not be a conditional use, would be a two-family house in which one of the dwelling units is being rented by either the owner of the home, or is occupied long-term. They would only need the regular rental permit.

Among the arguments frequently made against short-term rentals were they use up the available housing stock in the village, and eliminate potentially affordable homes; they are a commercial use in a residential area; and they are not required to undergo the same safety standards or to pay the same sales tax and occupancy taxes as hotels and bed-and-breakfasts; and they will fill the village with mostly tourists instead of year-round residents.

Those in support of short-term rentals argued they help the economy by bringing people to the village who might not be able to afford a longer stay; and that renting a second room in a two-family house often is the only way some owners can afford their house.

Devin McMahon, a former Village Planning Board member and chair, said he’s seen a rise in investors who are buying a large percentage of the housing stock in the village, which he feels has had a negative impact on the community.

But he said the proposal put forward in the hearing “is not the answer,” and will worsen the situation.

“This proposal will codify approvals for short-term rentals,” he said. “It says it is an acceptable use.”

He also opposed the section requiring Planning Board approval.

“You’re just shifting the angry mob from one meeting to another,” he said.

Julia Moran of Main Street, who owns two houses in the village, said they bought the first one in 2007 and the second one five years later.

Instead of selling one, they decided to keep it, fix it up, and use it for short-term rentals at times.

The house they fixed up had been used for long-term rentals and had been neglected for 16 years, she said.

“We rescued the house,” she said. “We think we have certainly shown our investment in the community and we don’t think we should be restricted.”

She feels a 14-day requirement will put an end to the majority of short-term rentals in the village.

Tricia Hammes of Main Street said the village’s proposal should be at least as restrictive as Southold Town’s short-term rental law, which prohibits rentals of less than 14 days. She said she’d prefer a 28-day requirement but realizes that might be unrealistic.

“I believe the village character has been altered” since Southold passed its law in 2015, she said.

That made Greenport a target for people buying investment homes for use as short-term rentals, she said.

“It’s changing Greenport from a community people come to visit to a vacation weekend designation,” Ms. Hammes said.

Chet Milot, in a letter read aloud at Thursday’s meeting by his mother, Alix, said he bought and restored an 1820 house on Carpenter Street after his grandparents moved to Peconic Landing.

He said renting the house for a total of about three months a year allowed him financially to keep the property so that his family can enjoy it the other nine months.

The average stay was about six days, he said, but he added that he has spent “countless hours” fixing and restoring the property.

Mr. Milot estimated 80 percent of the people who rent from him do so in order to bring their children and dogs on vacation.

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