STR owners seek softened regulations in Lake Placid

LAKE PLACID — A coalition of around 40 short-term vacation rental owners in Lake Placid is reemerging with a new name and a goal to loosen village officials’ restrictions on day limits and unhosted STR permits in their newly proposed STR regulations.

Members of the coalition, formerly known as “Gold Medal Hospitality,” started speaking out on behalf of their group at public hearings in 2019, when village officials proposed their first set of STR regulations. Now, as the village board of trustees nears the end of its process to update the village’s STR regulations, members of the coalition are advocating for changes to the village’s direction. Coalition co-chair Kris Sandor said that the coalition includes STR owners from the village and the town of North Elba, but he said the group is mostly concerned with the village board’s proposed STR regulations.

The coalition, composed mostly of STR owners in the village’s residential districts, released a statement last week that identified the group under a new name: Adirondack Families Rental Association. Sandor said that the group wanted a new name that was more representative of who its members were: Families who have a close connection with the Adirondacks.

Sandor, a Connecticut resident who rents his second home in Lake Placid as an STR, said AFRA members want village officials to “strongly consider” the coalition’s recommendations — released last week ahead of the village’s first draft of proposed STR regulations — for alterations to the village’s ideas. The coalition’s recommendations include not differentiating between hosted and unhosted properties; not limiting the number of days a property can be rented, which is proposed as 90 days for hosted and unhosted rentals in the village’s current draft of regulations; limiting permits to one property; not excluding STRs from certain neighborhoods in favor of imposing a cap on permits issued; and capping the number of STRs at a “reasonable” number. The village’s current draft of STR regulations doesn’t propose a cap on STR permits in any districts; instead, unhosted STR permits would no longer be issued in residential areas.

Members of the coalition also want to be able to pass on their STR permits to their children when they inherit their homes, according to Sandor. The village board is proposing that all existing unhosted STR permits in residential areas be terminated when a change of ownership takes place.

Sandor said AFRA’s goal in releasing its recommendations is to hold village officials accountable in their process of reforming STR regulations. To Sandor, that means encouraging officials to use “data” and “evidence” to support the new rule-making.

Sandor said members of the coalition feel that some village board members entered into the process of regulating STRs with the goal to eliminate the rentals altogether. No village board members have publicly said they want to entirely eliminate STRs. He thought that village officials ignored the economic benefits of STRs as presented in past studies and favored anecdotal evidence that the community doesn’t like STRs. Sandor also thought that the village board put its original regulations in place “and just walked away” without performing a study to see if those laws were effective. Now, with the latest reformation of the village’s STR regulations, Sandor said, “it’s almost like they’re just trying to finish what they started years ago.” Members of the village and town boards have said in the past that the current STR regulations were intended as a sort of foundation, to be altered or built upon later.

“It was always their intent,” he said of village officials. “When pressed, when we’ve asked them, ‘Where’s the data? Where’s the facts?’ we get shoulder shrugs.”

Over the last several months, the village and town of North Elba worked closely with the Lake Placid-North Elba Land Use Code Committee to study the presence of STRs in the area, compliance with STR laws and public sentiment about STR regulations. The committee conducted a survey which found that more than half of 420 survey-takers were dissatisfied with current STR regulations, and the committee formed recommendations for how the village and town could better regulate STRs. While village and town officials’ ideas for new STR regulations don’t include all of the committee’s recommendations, many of the officials’ ideas are rooted in the committee’s work — namely the proposed prohibition of new unhosted STR permits in the village and town’s residential districts.

AFRA compiled and disseminated a study of its own this summer. The study was sent out to 80 STR owners in the village, many of them in residential areas. AFRA spokesperson Joshua Poupore said that 28 people responded to the survey.

The survey found that the 28 STR owners felt their rentals contributed around $1 million in direct spending to local restaurants and shops, another $1.8 million to local houskeepers, landscapers and property managers, and $200,000 in county bed tax. It’s unclear if these were considered annual figures. The survey also found that around 75% of respondents either lose money on their STR, break even or make only a “negligible profit” on the income it generates.

Only one survey-taker said they’d received a complaint about their STR, which AFRA’s release claims invalidates “the ‘nuisance’ claim that some board members argue without any data as a reason for action.”

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