Proposed laws would require owners get permits
When Nelsonville’s Village Board on Tuesday (Feb. 16) sought input on a draft law regulating short-term rentals, it got what it asked for — about 90 minutes of mixed praise and protest.
The feedback came in a public hearing at the close of the board’s regular monthly meeting, conducted by Zoom.
Board members kept the hearing open so more residents can submit comments and said they plan to revise the draft and hold further public discussions in coming weeks.
Short-term rentals also have been on the agenda in Cold Spring, where the Village Board is close to adopting regulations as part of the ongoing update of the village code. John Furst, village attorney, is reviewing the chapter on short-term rentals and when he finishes the Village Board intends to consider his suggestions, if any, and schedule a public hearing.
Short-term rentals have proliferated in Cold Spring in recent years, and a public meeting to discuss their impact drew a standing-room-only crowd in September 2019. The general consensus: allow them, with restrictions.
Cold Spring’s draft law calls for issuing permits for up to 38 short-term rentals, limited to a maximum of two per street. The permits, valid for one year, would be distributed through a lottery if more than 38 homeowners apply or if more than two homeowners apply on the same street.
Short-term rentals have been a booming business, even during the pandemic, according to Airbnb, which on Wednesday (Feb. 17) announced that new hosts in the Catskills and Hudson Valley region with one listing have earned more than $10 million since March. The typical new host in the U.S. earned $3,900, the company reported.
Airbnb said 29 percent of the U.S. hosts surveyed, including 49 percent of those aged 25 to 34, said they use their earnings to pay their rent or mortgage; a quarter used the income to pay down debts and 10 percent to pay for health care.
In Nelsonville, resident MaryLou Caccetta commended the Village Board for doing “a great job” with the proposed regulations.
Mayor Michael Bowman said that the board wants “to do what is best” for the village. “We’re not trying to ban this [short-term renting] in any way. We’re just trying to get a handle on it.” Moreover, he added, right now short-term renting “is technically illegal by the village code.”
The proposed law, based on statutes in Beacon and other communities, would restrict vacation, weekend or similar rentals to 30 days per booking. It also would limit short-term rentals to 12 units, village-wide, or 5 percent of its 234 taxable residential properties. In addition, it would require owners to pay $250 for an annual permit (renewable for $150) and undergo annual inspections.
Under the draft, a unit could be rented for up to 100 days annually and owners would have to occupy the premises 185 days a year. They also would need to provide the village with contact information for emergencies and be able to reach the site within 30 minutes if not present when an urgent need arose.
The draft requires units to be part of residences and forbids trailers, campers, tents, vehicles, storage sheds, garages or similar structures for short-term accommodation. Current Airbnb listings for Nelsonville include a silver Airstream trailer on a hillside.
The law would further demand that each short-term rental have its own bathroom with a shower or tub, allow no more than two adults per bedroom and include an off-street parking space. It likewise bans use of short-term rentals for “parties or events.”
That provision sparked objections.
Sonia Ryzy-Ryski and her husband, Rudy Van Dommele, offer three rental options, including the Airstream, on their 5-acre property near Nelsonville’s border with Cold Spring. “How can you rent a giant house on Airbnb and not allow a party?” she asked.
Ryzy-Ryski criticized “such draconian measures” and said that under a restrictive law “we won’t have the same freedom going forward. I’m not very happy about it.”
According to its preamble, the law is intended to promote safety by ensuring that short-term rentals comply with fire and health codes; help preserve long-term rental housing; and protect the character of the community and “the survival of the quality of life of fulltime local residents.”
Several homeowners, including Tom Corless, a former Nelsonville mayor, questioned the 12-unit cap. He proposed doubling that number.
Kathleen Maloney, a candidate for trustee in Nelsonville’s March election, backed the legislation but predicted a 12-unit cap would “be hard to administer in a way that’s fair for everybody.”
Another trustee candidate, Maria Zhynovitch, cautioned that with a limited number of allowable short-term units, “people who are able to secure the permits now would have an advantage over those who are perhaps still deciding whether to do it, or who would enter the market later on.” She suggested “an automatic, built-in increase” in allowable units, up to a maximum.
Heidi Wendel felt “the cap is a good idea” and probably easier to enforce than demands that owners occupy their homes much of the year and stop renting after hitting the 100-day annual limit.
Some residents also backed efforts to save houses from being purchased by commercial ventures seeking to use them solely as short-term rentals. “We share the concern about zombie communities” with monied interests “sucking away the resources of the people who live in the community, making it untenable,” said Josh Kaplan. But he and his wife, Jenny, also endorsed short-term renting, which they said provides some families with extra income while helping others find places nearby for visiting relatives.
At present, Nelsonville’s code allows “the letting of rooms” to up to two guests at a time, as long as the owner lives in the house. It prohibits cooking facilities in guest rooms, although an owner can supply breakfast and allow guest access to the home’s kitchen.
Michael Turton contributed reporting.