Nelsonville Resumes Discussion of Short-Term Rentals

Mayor promises revised draft law after comments

The Nelsonville Village Board this week resumed discussion of a possible law on short-term vacation rentals while residents either challenged the need for regulation or welcomed it so private homes don’t become full-time businesses.

Members of the board took up the issue on Monday (June 21) at their first formal monthly meeting held in person in more than a year because of pandemic restrictions. Their discussion coincides with one in Cold Spring on short-term rentals (STRs), which are typically arranged through Airbnb or similar services.

The Nelsonville board has considered the subject intermittently for more than three years and in February conducted a public hearing on a draft law. That version would have limited the number of short-term rentals to 12 units in the village, or 5 percent of 234 taxable residential properties; required owners to pay $250 for a permit, renewable annually for $150; restricted the number of days that a unit could be rented to 100 annually; required owners to occupy the premises 185 days a year; and banned the use of trailers, campers, tents, garages or storage sheds as short-term rentals. 

With two new trustees — Maria Zhynovitch and Kathleen Maloney — joining the five-member board after the March election, Nelsonville returned to short-term rentals this spring. Trustee Chris Winward said suggestions now being weighed include allowing owners to rent out their homes for a week or more if they’re on vacation or during extended events, such as West Point graduation, and requiring that homeowners live in their house for a year or two before opening an STR. 

“The impetus is to make sure people don’t turn over their homes quickly” for resale as STRs, Winward said.

David Herman, who said he had moved to Nelsonville 18 months ago, emphasized the importance of preserving village “safety and community-mindedness” and retaining enough residents to staff volunteer-dependent local organizations.

He expressed concerns about the village’s fate if affluent New Yorkers purchase homes, live in them half the year, and rent them during the remainder while they decamp to their city residences. “The more the real estate market turns into one that doesn’t foster families, the more there’s going to be, long-term, an adverse effect,” he said.

Jay Nicholas told the board that he has offered both short- and longer-stay rentals at his house, although “we’re taking a break.” At one point, he said, “we really needed the income. It kind of comes down to need” economically, for many STR operators. He added that “I was always on the site, with my Airbnb.” 

Rudy Van Dommele, who lives on the property where he and his wife provide two Airbnb units, including an Airstream trailer, said “I question the whole initiative of this proposed law. Where is the necessity to do this now?” A real estate agent, he refuted the notion that buyers will scoop up homes to use as businesses. “It’s not profitable to run an Airbnb if you don’t live there,” he said. 

Dave McCarthy pointed to differences between “absentee landlords” and owners who dwell on the premises. “When the residents are there, it should count for something big,” he said.

As the discussion wound down, Mayor Mike Bowman said that “what is coming out of this is that there’s a middle ground here.” He said the board would consider the approaches and bring a fresh draft law to the public for comment. 

Nelsonville code currently allows “the letting of rooms” to up to two guests at a time, but only if the owner lives in the house. It prohibits cooking facilities in guest rooms, although an owner can offer breakfast or other “board” and allow guest access to the home’s kitchen.

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One thought on “Nelsonville Resumes Discussion of Short-Term Rentals

  1. The ability of our neighbors and friends in this community to share their homes with trusted people and for time periods determined by each individual and not by a government is an extension of rights held deeply by the patriots who fought diligently some 244 years ago here on these Hudson River shorelines. We have the right to peaceably assemble in our own homes, we have the right to communicate privately, and we have a freedom from unreasonable searches. Furthermore, we expect to exercise these rights as long as they do not impinge upon the health safety and welfare of others. These outward impingements – noise, trash, parking, traffic, etc. – can all be addressed independently.

    As an architect, I fully appreciate the importance of building safety, occupancy standards, etc. In addition, what I have come to understand as a building owner is that my highest service to the community is to provide flexibility for shifting public needs. I truly believe as a building owner and landlord that providing space “to be” is a true and generalized service to the local and broader community.

    Since last April, in our attached studio apartment – we have hosted artists, doctors, students, family members, friends – even a birthday party for a local friend who needed a bit more space. Most of our guests have stayed for a few months, some for less than a month. In fact, in a few weeks we are hosting a family from Cold Spring who needs a place to stay without paying exorbitantly for a hotel room in Fishkill. We love sharing our home, gardens, and neighborhood with friends, family, and guests. For us, community means sharing – community means welcoming.

    Furthermore, we just happen to be the closest neighbors to what seems to be one of the few short term rentals in the Village of Nelsonville – and have found both our neighbors and their periodic guests to be friendly, courteous, and conscientious. In fact, we welcome new faces and meeting new people who are exploring the area for the first time.

    I love living in Nelsonville, and appreciate the work that village government does to protect what we collectively hold dear. However, we cannot legislate friendliness, community spirit, or for time to stand still. If what people want is more community interaction and to get to know their neighbors – we might as well outlaw TV and the internet. While we’re at it, let’s cut the Netflix subscriptions and why not outlaw Facebook so people will actually get outside and talk to each other?

    Nelsonville (and Cold Spring), let’s come together and oppose draconian regulations and focus on REAL quality of life issues that are within the purview of a Village Government to enforce (parking violations, littering, speeding, noise ordinances, building code violations, etc). This 4th of July, let’s say NO to government overreach and YES to freedom. This law will turn neighbor against neighbor, and put the long arms of the law squarely within our homes and private affairs.