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Short-term rentals packs ’em in again at two-hour Greenport hearing

The Greenport Village Board drew another big crowd on the topic of regulating short-term rentals during a two-hour public hearing last Thursday.

This time, the comments were about even pro and con — and the cons came armed with two attorneys representing people who own short-term rental properties in the village.

Both attorneys, Salem Katsh of Orient and Pat Moore of Mattituck, said they were representing several people who lease their homes short-term.

Both also claimed that short-term rentals have occurred in the village for many years and that people who have done so in the past should be allowed to continue as a “grandfathered” use under zoning.

Both also said their research indicates that only 30 homes in Greenport are being advertised as short-term rentals, which is a small percentage of the rental pool in Greenport. Trustee Doug Roberts said research he did showed there are about 60 short-term rentals in the village. Mr. Katsh said even that’s only about 5 percent of the housing in the village.

Mayor George Hubbard Jr. said he board will discuss the current proposal at its Oct. 17 work session before deciding how to vote.

“There was a lot of information and a lot people were adamant both ways, so we’ll see what the board feels like doing,” he said.

The proposal currently under consideration defines short-term rentals as 14 days or less and long-term rentals as those made for a term of at least a year under a written lease.

The revised proposal would permit short-term rentals in two-family homes provided one of the units is occupied by either the owner or a long-term tenant. It would also permit the owners of single-family houses to rent out portions of a house on a short-term basis provided they also live there themselves or have a long-term tenant in residence.

Ms. Moore said she’s talked to people and businesses in Southold Town, which adopted short-term rental restrictions in 2016, who feel it has hurt the restaurants and retail businesses in the town.

People who had been offering short-term rentals in Southold Town were forced to sell their homes after the town law was passed, she said.

“It has had a negative effect,” she said.

Colin Ratsey of Greenport said the village is being inundated with tourists, and there are fewer young people living there because of short-term rentals. Soon, he said, there will be no one left to work or volunteer for things like the fire department.

“The problem with the town is that we’re losing the kids,” Mr. Ratsey said.

The village now has residents who complain about things like fishing boats and leaf blowers, he said.

Without the homeowner being in the house, Mr. Ratsey added, “you’ll have a two-family house with one party upstairs and one party downstairs.”

Some places, he noted, “are just a party all night long. It’s getting out of control.”

Madison Fender of Greenport said she’s lived there for six years and is involved in a lot of community activities and charities.

“I’ve been looking for a year-round rental and it’s nearly impossible,” she said.

“Airbnb is out of control,” Ms. Fender said, alluding to one of the popular short-term rental web sites.

Joe Flotteron of Peconic Water Sports said he wouldn’t be able to afford to live in the village if the didn’t have a short-term rental in his house.

Many of last week’s speakers also commented during a July 26 public hearing.

One argument that came up a few times is whether a short-term rentals are permitted or not under current village law.

Ms. Moore said it’s clear from the six years the board has been considering short-term rental regulations that it is “not considered illegal. It is presently a permitted use under zoning.”

Village attorney Joe Prokop has said, however, that while short-term rentals are not “expressly prohibited” currently, they constitute a commercial use of property, which is illegal in residential zones in the village.

Ms. Moore also questioned why the proposed law would allow part of a single-family dwelling occupied by either an owner or long-term tenant to be offered as a short-term rental.

“That’s called a bed and breakfast,” she said, adding that B&Bs are limited to three rooms and have to “go through hurdles” to get approved.

Arguments against short-term rentals asserted that they use up available housing stock in the village and eliminate potentially affordable homes, leaving the village filled with tourists and out-of-towners and making it hard for year-round residents to find housing.

Supporters say people who rent out their homes will often take better care of them and that short-term rentals help the economy by bringing in people who would otherwise not be able to afford to stay in the village for two weeks.

Another frequently heard argument in favor of short-term rentals is that it provides a rental income for homeowners who otherwise might not be able to afford to stay in Greenport.

Ian Wile, who lives in Greenport and owns a restaurant in the village, said the board needs to get something on the books regarding short-term rents.

“Any direction is good,” he said. “Just get something on the books.”

The board took no formal action on the proposal following the hearing and will discuss it further next month.

“It’s great to see a lot of people here to get input back to us,” Mr. Hubbard said. “This has been talked about for over six years. It’s gone back and forth for a long time.”

Photo caption: Thursday’s hearing drew another big crowd. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

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