The Cold Spring Chamber of Commerce supports short-term rentals if they are defined, regulated and fairly taxed. We also support code updates that reasonably address the three primary concerns expressed by residents in the public hearing in 2019 and gathered in our community survey: (1) prevent noisy, disruptive parties that disrespect neighbors, (2) prevent safety hazards and (3) prevent the loss of village housing stock for new full-time residents.
The trustees’ proposed regulations address the first of these concerns by requiring visitors to rent for two nights or more. (Airbnb studied the issue of pop-up parties and found that hosts could reduce their likelihood by requiring guests to book two nights or more.) In any case, Airbnb bans parties, provides a hotline for neighbors to report offenders, and excludes guests and hosts responsible for parties.
The proposal addresses the second concern by requiring permit holders to pass fire and safety inspections, and it addresses the third through measures that
require permit holders to own and live in the residence they rent, limiting the number of rental days and making condo and apartment dwellers ineligible.
However, we feel that the proposed policy has provisions that are unnecessarily complicated, restrictive and hard to comply with. It introduces restrictions more stringent than what has been adopted by most communities in the Hudson Valley. For instance, most communities limit short-term rentals to 90 to 180 days a year, rather than 60. Limiting the number of annual permits to 34 households would reduce the availability of accommodations by two-thirds. (There are currently at least 100 hosts in the village.)
This shift would reduce the incomes of many residents, as well as of the Main Street merchants who serve visitors. It would also complicate the lives of residents who need local accommodations for visitors.
A cumbersome application and an annual permit lottery may make sense for the frequent host who intends the maximum number of rentals, but they are inappropriate for the host who rents once or twice a year, perhaps during trips away from home. If the lottery goes to more frequent hosts, accommodations increase. If it goes to more occasional hosts, they decrease. Public policy should not produce such random outcomes.
We recommend that the trustees increase the rental limit to 80 days a year, increase the number of one-year permits to 50 and allow residents to apply for them at any time throughout the year. In addition, we recommend offering a second type of minimal-use permit, for occasional hosts (say, up 3 rentals a year), provide a limit of how long a period each permit is good for (say, renting up to 30 days total per year) and would carry a higher fee (say, $150).
Several other elements of the proposal are unduly restrictive. We fear that they will push residents into noncompliance, thus increasing dissension and the village’s enforcement burden. The provision that no permit will be allowed within 300 feet in any direction from a property where a current permit has been issued seems unnecessary. Given the limit of 60 rental days a year, adjacent permit holders may not often have guests at the same time. The requirement that short-term rentals in the R-1 residential district have one off-street parking space is inconsistent with other regulations; residences with no off-street parking are common and legal in the village. The occupants of such residences may park an unlimited number of vehicles on the streets. Denying that right to visitors staying in those residences seems unjustifiable.
Moreover, a requirement of one off-street parking place does not necessarily reduce on-street parking because it does not mandate use of the off-street space. And when homeowners who park in the street rent their house, they often go elsewhere, so there is no net increase in on-street parking. The requirement of one off-street parking place is thus arbitrary and discriminatory, depriving some residents (those with no driveway) of a right to rent enjoyed by others, for no objective reason.
Restrictions like these are out of place in the policy. They aim to address problems (noisy neighbors, lack of parking) that are not caused solely by rentals and that are better dealt with through broader village policies.
We suggest starting with a more lenient policy and then increasing the restrictions later if problems arise.
Eliza Starbuck, Cold Spring
Starbuck is president of the Cold Spring Chamber of Commerce.