STRs contribute to Wilmington’s economy

Two guest commentaries titled “Wilmington deserves clarity,” Part 1 and 2, written by Wilmington town board member Tim Follos, were published on Aug. 24 and Sept. 1 in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. One of these pieces was also published in the Lake Placid News on Aug. 25.

These commentaries continue what seems to be a coordinated anti-business campaign arguing for restricting or eliminating the STR (short-term vacation rental) business in Wilmington. This campaign consists of a series of opinion pieces published in local newspapers as well as attempts to sideline town board members who have more balanced views on Wilmington and the contribution of STRs.

These opinion pieces present an extremely narrow and misleading view of STRs’ contribution to the local economy, only addressing the amount of bed tax that is contributed to the town budget. This narrow view demonstrates a lack of understanding of Wilmington’s economy and either an ignorant or willful disregard for how a large percentage of locals earn their living.

As someone who has invested life savings into Wilmington by building/purchasing STRs and as a full-time resident of this area, I would like to present a broader picture — of what STRs truly mean to Wilmington’s economy and employment.

Please bear with me as I present some numbers — these are educated estimates and could be argued up or down, but that will not meaningfully change the key message or conclusion. I would also welcome any challenge to these numbers as long as it is logical and factual.

The total number of STRs in Wilmington is likely around 140 — a fair assumption would be that these are half owned by local residents and half by owners living elsewhere — 70 each.

The annual income generated by these STRs is estimated below for different local stakeholders of the STR business:

Local STR owners

An average STR could be expected to generate a net income (revenue less expenses) of $25,000 per year for its owner. This is a broad estimate — net income after expenses depends on size of the home, amenities, size of mortgage, etc., but I believe this to be a fair average. Income to non-resident owners is excluded from this calculation. Income for local STR owners would therefore be: 70 STRs times $25,000, equaling $1,750,000.

Cleaning and caretaking

Assuming 50 bookings a year for an average STR, and $150 average cleaning/caretaking fee per booking, annual income for locals who clean/caretake would be: 140 STRs times 50 bookings, times $150 per booking, equaling $1,050,000.

Repairs and maintenance

STRs require regular upkeep and maintenance engaging multiple skilled tradespeople — carpenters, plumbers, electricians, handymen, landscapers, plowing services, hot tub repair people, etc. It is a fair and perhaps lowballed estimate that each STR would need $5,000 of such upkeep per year. 140 STRs times $5,000 would equal $700,000.

Spending at local businesses

At 50 bookings per year and assuming each stay averages four guests for four days, 140 STRs would bring in 28,000 visitors annually staying for four days on average — this equates to around 300 visitors a day. It seems reasonable to assume a guest spends an average of $20 a day locally (for restaurants, groceries, gas, bars, firewood, souvenirs, etc.). This would generate the following revenue for local businesses: 140 STRs times 50 bookings, times four guests, times four days, times $20 spend would equal $2,240,000.

What do these calculations mean and why should I care as a Wilmington local?

The numbers above add up to a total of around $5.7 million of income directly to local residents including revenue to local business — $1.75 million for local STR owners, $1.05 million for cleaners/caretakers, $0.7 million for local tradespeople and $2.24 million revenue for local businesses.

This excludes any income for non-resident STR owners — people who dream of living in this area and have taken concrete steps to realize that dream through investing in second homes. Among the few I personally know, a serving member of the U.S. military, an Olympian and someone else who has brought much glory to the U.S. through sport — people who we should welcome into the local community.

The average household income of the 375 full time Wilmington households is approximately $70,000 a year according to public data (including retirees). Five-point-seven million would equal the income of 80 households, or close to 200 locals. I can claim with certainty that STRs are the leading source of income and employment in Wilmington and the surrounding areas, supporting at least a third of the local working population, probably a lot more. Even if all the above numbers are reduced by half, it would still make STRs the single largest source of local income.

Stopping or restricting STRs would create mass-unemployment. Wilmington has seen an exodus of business over the years — the handful of local businesses still in this area will greatly suffer and may completely cease to exist. I understand that some in our community have views against STRs and such views should be discussed, and concerns addressed — however, any broad-brush restriction that makes STRs unviable will be completely destructive to the local economy, threatening the livelihoods of more hard-working locals than people realize.

I would encourage the dozens of people who depend on STRs for their income to please take a more active interest in town politics and make your voices heard, before we find ourselves out of work and wondering how things got to that stage.

If your income depends on STRs, please ask the Wilmington town board and specifically Tim Follos the following question: “If you limit STRs, please let me know what job you’ll recommend as a replacement?”

The next town board meeting is on Sept. 13 at 7 p.m. at 7 Community Circle — these monthly meetings are always open to the public. Hope to see you there.

(Aseem Mathur relocated to the area with his family in 2020. He and his wife own a short-term vacation rental business in Wilmington.)

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