STR owners respond to committee’s proposals

LAKE PLACID — Some owners of unhosted short-term vacation rentals in Lake Placid recently raised concerns with a local committee’s recommendations for new STR regulations in the village of Lake Placid and the town of North Elba.

The town and village held a joint meeting on July 5 where the Lake Placid-North Elba Land Use Code Committee presented its ideas for changes to the current STR regulations in the municipalities. After the presentation, a few people who own “unhosted” STRs — rentals operated by someone who isn’t a full-time resident of the property — expressed their feelings that the new regulations are aiming to “drive” them out of the village.

The committee is recommending that the village and town prohibit unhosted STRs in residential districts in the town and village — with some exceptions — and allow unhosted STRs — with some exceptions — in the village center, the gateway corridor, the Old Military Road corridor and the rural countryside district. The committee believes that hosted STRs, or rentals where the host is on-site, should be allowed anywhere in the town and village. These recommendations have not yet been adopted by town or village boards.

The recommendations come less than two months before the municipalities’ moratorium on the issuance of new STR permits is set to expire, unless the boards decide to extend it.

The recommendations and public feedback, along with PDFs of maps that tie the recommendations to the town and village land use code, are available online at https://tinyurl.com/2snt7r7z.

Legacy homeowners

Julie Lamb and Joshua Grahlman, who own a second home on Hillcrest Avenue that they rent as an STR, said they fall just short of being full-time Lake Placid residents — someone who is defined by the code as living here at least 184 days out of the year, according to land use code committee Dietrich, who presented the committee’s ideas on July 5. If the land use code committee’s recommendations are adopted, Hillcrest Avenue would be one of the areas where unhosted STRs would be prohibited.

Lamb said that she and Grahlman purchased their home last year as a “legacy home” — a home they bought to eventually become their first home. The couple competed in the 2011 Ironman Lake Placid triathlon, and Lamb said they fell in love with the area. After hearing the land use code committee’s ideas to prohibit unhosted rentals in their area, Lamb felt that her family was being “driven out” of Lake Placid.

Lamb raised concerns to Dietrich that the recommendations only divide STRs along lines of full-time residency without any distinctions between STRs owned by individuals and STRs owned by LLCs. She said it didn’t “make any sense” that businesses that own STRs are being treated the same as families that own STRs in the recommendations.

“There are many of us that fall short of six months that are members of the community, that own our home, that occasionally rent out,” she said. “We are not a business, and you’re impacting people. Everything you said today was about, ‘These are the rational choices that went into the decision’ — but those are people.”

Another unhosted STR owner, who didn’t identify himself, said he lives in a residential area near the village center. He thought that around two-thirds to three-fourths of his neighborhood was already filled with STRs. The man said he bought his second home in Lake Placid seven years ago as a legacy home. He felt “targeted” by the committee’s recommendations.

“You’re trying to drive us out of the neighborhood. (I’m) not a one percenter … so it’s going to happen, the shifts you want will happen, and I don’t think it’s going to change the nature of the neighborhood. Why are we being targeted?”

“Amen,” Lamb said.

The man said he lives near the Jersey Shore, and he’s seen STRs cohabitate with residential life there.

“We’re not suggesting that they can’t cohabitate,” Dietrich replied. “What we’re suggesting is that there are areas in the village and town — geographic areas — where they’re more suitable.”

The man asked Dietrich how people who own unhosted STRs would be able to afford their homes if they’re not allowed to use them as STRs.

Grahlman raised a concern about what he thought was the committee’s intent to “uphold neighborhood sanctity,” saying that there was “limited” data available about nuisances in those areas. Dietrich said the town and village have received 115 nuisance reports over a two-year period, but he said public feedback in the survey showed that there were “many more than that.” He told Grahlman that the committee doesn’t find the nuisance report data “reliable.”

Grahlman floated the idea of a three-strike rule, where STR owners who receive at least three nuisance reports in a year period would get their permit taken away. While the town and village do have a similar system in place, Dietrich said it’s been hard to enforce since all violations of STR regulations are considered misdemeanors under current regulations. The committee’s report states that enforcing these violations can be expensive and time-consuming, and the committee believes that lesser offenses — like having an illegal sandwich board — don’t need a court process and “are best resolved by the people involved in the enforcement process, and experts in the field.”

The committee’s ideas for the new STR regulations are just recommendations — they haven’t been adopted by town or village boards. The town and village boards are working their way through a series of special meetings this month to discuss how they want to regulate STRs. The village board will have special meetings at the North Elba Town Hall at 3:30 p.m. on July 19 and 27. The town council will have special meetings at the North Elba Town Hall at 9 a.m. on July 19 and 26. A public hearing will also be required before town and village boards can adopt new STR regulations.