Wilmington deserves respect

In various ways — including by speaking up at town board meetings, by signing letters to the editor, and by signing petitions — at this point more than 70 Wilmington residents have called for improved short-term rental (STR) regulations in our town. This number merely represents a fraction of the community members who feel similarly.

In the fall of 2021, 473 voters elected two new people to our town board. There were four names on the ballot and three active town board candidates on Election Day. Tim Follos received 319 votes. This indicates that there are many Wilmington residents who share his views about important local issues, including the hot topic of the decade: STRs.

Unfortunately, a commentary titled “Supporters for growth in Wilmington” (published in the Lake Placid News on July 14) repeatedly dismisses those in favor of improved STR regulations as a “small group.”

Is 70 people a small group?

In all, 67% of those who cast ballots last fall voted for a candidate who made reining in whole-home STRs a focal point of his campaign. Even if only half of those voters agree with that candidate’s stance on STRs, is 160 people a small group?

“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,” the Supporters for Growth wrote. “About a handful of locals volunteered for this. Where were your voices then?”

As has been stated by others previously, when this committee was formed and these regulations were drafted, few could foresee the extent or speed of the STR explosion throughout Wilmington.

The number of vacation rentals in Wilmington, a community with around 600 homes, exploded from roughly 100 in 2019 to more than 160 today. Roughly 130 of these STRs are “whole-home” rentals.

It is without doubt that participation in the previous STR committee was lackluster for a variety of reasons. But no matter what happened years ago, at this point people in Wilmington certainly see what is happening, they are concerned, and they are rightfully speaking up.

The Supporters should respect their neighbors’ voices rather than disparaging them.

It is also disappointing that the Supporters mischaracterize those asking for updated vacation rental regulations as being against growth. The 33 people who signed the original letter that inspired “Supporters for growth” (a letter titled “Wilmington deserves better,” published in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise on July 2) are a diverse group of people with diverse opinions about topics of public interest. They did not collectively express any opinion about growth in Wilmington.

“Wilmington deserves better” asked Wilmington’s town board to, one, recognize the significant contribution the regional STR explosion has made to the severe regional housing shortage, and, two, to finally vote to treat STRs as what they are: businesses.

It is worth pointing out that a prominent STR operation in Wilmington brands itself as “Adirondack Vacations, LLC,” and one of the operators of that limited liability company, Aseem Mathur, recently submitted a guest commentary to this newspaper stating that “He and his wife own a short-term vacation rental business in Wilmington.”

A limited liability company is, by definition, a business.

But there are people in Wilmington who seem determined to turn a blind eye to this reality.

We now ask our town board to heed the many community members who have asked their elected officials to modernize Wilmington’s vacation rental law. Before Wilmington starts issuing two-year (!) STR permits, our outdated and insufficient local law is cemented into place, and another two years of displacement and division are guaranteed, we ask our town board to take the following steps at its next meeting:

– Please vote to treat STRs like the businesses they clearly are.

– Please vote to require STR businesses in areas zoned primarily for residential use to obtain a “use variance” or “a special use permit” from our Planning Board.

– Please vote to raise the fees levied on whole-home STR businesses (currently levied at an extremely low annual rate of $150 $25 per bedroom), in order to ease the property tax burden borne by everyday residential taxpayers who are not operating hotel-like businesses.

– Please vote to limit the total number of STR licenses Wilmington’s issues annually.

– Please take immediate action to protect certain parts of Wilmington from continued STR proliferation.

– Please vote to pause the looming issuance of long-term STR licenses until Wilmington’s STR ordinance is modernized.

– Before locking an outdated and insufficient local law into place for at least two years, please vote to immediately create a balanced committee — composed of people who are operating formerly residential properties as businesses and a diverse group of residents who do not own and operate hotel-like businesses — to ensure that Wilmington’s ideas, questions, concerns, and solutions are heard loud and clear.

In conclusion, we join with those who have publicly called for attendance at town meetings. Meetings of Wilmington’s Planning-Zoning Board are held on the first Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. at the community center. Regular town board meetings are held on the second Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. Town board “work session” meetings are generally held on the last Wednesday of the month, at 4 p.m.

Important decisions will be made in the next several months — decisions that will affect our families for years to come. There is often a busy agenda at these meetings and there is usually time for public comments and questions. People who began regularly attending recently say it has been eye-opening. If you want to see what really happens at these meetings — rather than relying on secondhand news, social media, or scattered newspaper reports — please attend, observe, and listen.

We need more people to see what is happening.

Christina Anderson

Bob Cressey

Nancy Cressey

Max Eaton

John Gates

Sue Ellen Gettens

Gary Grady

Brigette Levitt

Keith Lyon

Megan Lyon

Jessica Mulvey

Wyatt Peck

Helen Read

Renate Schneider

Linda Shuster

Chelsea Walker

Joe Wichtowski

Theresa Wichtowski

Kimberly Winch

Edward Winch

Pamela Winch

Patricia Winch

Randy Winch

Bill Wonderlin


Starting at $1.44/week.

Subscribe Today