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Supporters for growth in Wilmington

A letter to the editor was published in the Lake Placid News on July 1 titled “Wilmington must modernize short-term rental policies now” (the same letter in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise on July 2 was titled “Wilmington deserves better”), which indicated that STRs (short-term rentals) are a harmful trend, that they do not pay their fair share of taxes, and that they contribute to the negative effects of tourism in the community by making housing unaffordable for Wilmington.

New business and short-term rentals are now being bullied and blamed for many issues by this small group of people. Supporters and owners of STRs and small businesses are here to set the record straight and stand up for all who are trying to make a living.

We ask the town board to not allow this small group to dictate the growth of Wilmington. Supporters and owners of STRs and small businesses have had enough and we are ready to speak out. We ask the town board to not take steps backwards but to embrace change, welcome tourists, welcome new business, and build a solid economic plan that will allow growth for the people who live in Wilmington but also keep our uniqueness.

Businesses in Wilmington rely on tourists for the majority of their income. STRs bring people to the area, which, in turn, they visit the area attractions, local businesses and eat at the local restaurants. STRs create local jobs.

There is a large number of Wilmington residents that depend directly or indirectly on the STR business — not just as STR owners but as cleaners, landscapers, property managers, small business owners and caretakers. Limitations on STRs will have a significant negative impact on their livelihoods and household incomes, as well as a reduce town revenue overall. Combined with the current record inflation affecting the U.S., this would result in a double whammy that could push Wilmington into a recession.

This letter reported that short-term rentals are the cause for housing shortages in the High Peaks area, specifically that Wilmington cannot afford to lose even more housing to STRs. Housing is not a new problem, and it’s everywhere. There are factors that contribute to the shortage. The laws around long-term rentals protect more of the renter than the landlord. COVID showed this to be true by allowing renters to not pay their rent, which helped the renter but not the landlord, who was also struggling during this difficult time. The process of trying to get someone who is not paying rent out of your apartment is very difficult and time consuming. This has made it unappealing for people to want to consider long-term rentals. If you look at some statistics, Wilmington has 375 full time occupied homes, 84.5% are owner-occupied. This is among the highest rate in New York state and compare very favorably with Lake Placid which is 47% owner-occupied (worldpopulationreview.com data from the us census and related surveys). The other fact to consider is that Wilmington is also made up of over 60% state land.

Another blame on STRs were taxes and housing prices. Local and state taxes alone need to be looked at on all levels. The state and local taxes make it difficult for someone to own a home. Taxes are high in the Adirondack Park. This is one thing that we also need to remember is we are residing in a park. STRs have been in the area since 2000s but are not the main driver for the price escalation seen since the COVID pandemic began. Home value increases have instead been driven by the covid triggered rush of homebuyers in metropolitan areas to search for a rural respite (NCPR June 7, 2021).

Similar home price escalations have been seen across the U.S. in desirable non-metropolitan areas and are certainly not unique to Wilmington. If STR limitations are enacted and do indeed result in a drop in Wilmington property values as the authors intend, the primary losers will be current Wilmington homeowners who will see their property values erode while the primary beneficiaries would be out of town second homeowners who will snatch up the homes at lower prices.

Some STR owners also do this so they can keep a family home in the family; they need the income due to high prices in order to keep the home. This group also said we don’t contribute to the tax burden. STRs don’t get any taxes breaks! STRs are on the same tax map as everyone else. STRs pay land tax, school tax and bed tax. Bed tax is 5% on rental revenue which in turn contributed to Wilmington town budget, which benefits the whole community. Since November of 2020, STR bed tax has brought in $185,751.60 to our town. So how are we not contributing to taxes? It is also known that you now need two or more jobs to make ends meet and pay the taxes due to the high tax issue.

Wilmington is unique. We are not Lake Placid! We have different issues than Lake Placid. We have different needs. Why would we follow behind Lake Placid when our issues and needs are different. STRs is unique for sure. Some feel they need to be looked at as a business. If you consider STRs as a business, then how can you put in variance requirement outside of the commercial center of town. If an STR is a business, then why not allow them to do business in the business district? Makes no sense, people.

How can you limit businesses if you consider an STR a business? How is that fair to say to one person that, yes, you can do a business and then the next person say no you can’t? We also need to look at how can we really say what someone can do with a piece land or home that they worked hard for to get. How did we get so caught up in others’ business and try to limit their success? Why are we not happy for those who worked hard and found a way to create a living for themselves in such a difficult world? I guess some are for a communist country and not a free country.

It is also interesting that this small group was very quiet when Wilmington started their Short-Term Rental Board and the town of Wilmington asked for volunteers. About a handful of locals volunteered for this. Where were your voices then?

Some STRs and area businesses give back to the community. They support local functions such as the children’s Christmas party, and most recently the upcoming bicentennial events.

Wilmington is a special town to all of us, and we think we are in agreement that we want Wilmington stay a unique mountain town. We believe we can keep growing and still keep our uniqueness.

Sincerely,

Betty Smith, Travis Holzer, Stephanie Preston, Jason Preston, Cliff Holzer, Sarah Holzer, Kim Colby, Don Colby, Sue McCann, Jason Jones, Tracy Ward, Jessie Kohn, Mike Kohn, Emily McGuire, Aron McGuire, Mary Beth Taylor, James Gaffney, Judi Vanura-Mathur, Aseem Mathur, James Gaffney Jr, Katherine Gaffney, Wanda Gaffney, Holly Conners, Jeannie Demaro, Ken Santiago, Johanna Siquier, Laura Tarlo, Carmen Tarlo, Jean Massina, Frank Massina, Barb Stoner, Doug Stoner, Cassandra Vincent, Jeremy Vincent, Andrew Schmitz, Lacey Schmitz, Jennifer Alexander, Megan Clement, Lizzy Maloney, Jody Smith, Alma Dolmazet, Amir Dolmazet, Doug Smith, Steve Forbes, Linda Bedard, Debbie Taylor, Traci Luma, Jeff Luma, Kim Ottenstein, Todd Ottenstein, Leonard Forbes, Dolores Forbes, Brian Smith, Nick Weiss-Richmond, Martha Weiss. Monica Forbes, Dana Czapla, Paul Pellicii, Jameson Bowman, Shannon Bombard, Wes Schock, Marie McMahon

Wilmington