Greenport Village Board amending short-term rental law

Following a 90-minute public hearing last month, the Greenport Village Board is making changes to its proposed short-term rental law before bringing it to a vote. 

The proposal, which defines a short-term rental as fewer than 14 days, had a provision that non-owner-occupied rentals be subject to Village Planning Board approval.

Some speakers during the hearing felt that requirement could lead to lawsuits if some proposed rentals are approved and some are denied.

The updated version discussed at a Village Board work session Thursday would not require planning board approval, but would mandate that rentals 14 days or less must be owner-occupied.

“We’re going with the owner-occupied, this was the general consensus,” Village Mayor George Hubbard Jr. said of the board after the public hearing last month. “We’re trying to stop the influx from places being bought up just to become businesses.”

Unlike other municipalities in the five East End towns, Greenport Village currently has no law relating to short-term rentals on the books. It does have a law requiring all residential rentals obtain necessary permits and pass inspection, which would also apply to short-term rentals.

During the discussion, village trustee Mary Bess Phillips wondered if short-term rentals should be considered a business use, like regular bed-and-breakfasts. “They all collect money. They’re making an income,” she said.

Trustee Douglas Roberts agreed, adding that codifying requirements could set ground rules for homeowners planning to rent out their homes. Mr. Roberts said that language used in the B&B code could be mimicked to fit short-term rentals, including guidelines for parking spaces and occupancy limits. “I think some teeth in this so the short-term rental people have similar requirements as the B&B people would go a long way,” he said.

In June, B&B owners pleaded with village officials to take action on the rentals, which they say hurt their businesses. Clayton Sauer of the Stirling House B&B pointed out a discrepancy in per-night rates since they are subject to sales and hospitality tax, unlike short-term rentals. Bridget Elkin, who owns the Morning Glory B&B, suggested the village either ease up on restrictions for business owners or force short-term rental properties to play by the same rules.

“I think neighbors would appreciate that. We just want to be fair in the code,” Ms. Phillips said.

Mr. Hubbard disagreed on parking.

“If we’re going to start doing that, then we’d need to do it for every rental,” he said. “When you have a family in a four-bedroom upstairs apartment and they’ve got three teenagers that all drive, they’d need to have five parking spots. And we don’t enforce that.”

They agreed that occupancy was a key safety issue.

Two residents attended the work session and voiced support for the updated changes.

“There’s so many people looking for a place to live and I think this will curb a lot of these investors from buying up all these houses,” resident Chatty Allen said. “To me, it’s sad. I grew up here, and you knew where everyone lived.”

Ms. Allen hoped the board would enact impactful fines for those who do not comply. “You need to make a heavy fine for those who don’t follow the rules, because a lot of these investors don’t care,” she said. “They can make it up in a weekend.”

John Saladino, who chairs the zoning board, applauded the changes.

“Owner-occupied should be a no-brainer,” he said.

Mr. Roberts called the changes simple.

“It doesn’t require lots of process and it’s easy to enforce,” he said.

A public hearing on the revised law will be set for a future date at the board’s meeting next Thursday.

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