Nelsonville Limits Short-Term Rentals

Regulations will take effect in 2023

With a 3-2 vote on Tuesday (Jan. 18), the Nelsonville Village Board approved a law that will limit operation of short-term rentals to 100 days annually — or, alternatively, to two rentals of one week each — and require owners to make the property their main residence. 

The vote ended several years of intermittent but intense debate over STRs, which are typically rooms, apartments, auxiliary cottages or houses serving as weekend or vacation accommodations for paying guests who book them through services such as Airbnb and VRBO. 

The law, which takes effect on Jan. 1, exempts units rented for periods of 30 days or longer. It also excludes traditional bed-and-breakfasts, which usually provide a morning meal and fall under different regulations. 

Mayor Mike Bowman and Trustee Kathleen Maloney voted against the law. Trustees Chris Winward, Dave Moroney and Maria Zhynovitch voted for it.

According to its preamble, the law is intended to preserve long-term rental housing; protect community character; and ensure safety through compliance with fire, health and other rules.

It demands that STRs undergo inspections and that owners obtain either a Class A permit to rent for up to 100 days annually or a Class B permit to rent twice a year for up to a week at a time. Under the law, Nelsonville can issue 15 Class A and unlimited Class B permits annually. The law also authorizes the Village Board to increase the number of Class A permits, if warranted.

“I’ve had some sleepless nights on this one,” Bowman said, before voting. “I do have some reservations about the 100-day limit.” Moreover, he predicted, “enforcing this is going to be a very hard task.” 

Maloney proposed a limit of 100 stays rather than 100 days, a change she said could assist residents who depend on STR income. She voted “no” on the law after her colleagues displayed no interest in revising it.

The law also provides that:

  • Any STR must be an accessory function on a property, not the main use.
  • No garage, shed, trailer, camper or tent can be an STR.
  • A property with two STRs may list both under one permit, but the 100-day rule applies to both simultaneously. 
  • Owners must live on the property for at least one year before applying for a permit.
  • If not at the property, the STR owner or an authorized agent must be able to reach the rental within 30 minutes.
  • Each STR must have a bathroom containing a toilet, sink and bathtub or shower with hot and cold drinkable water. 
  • No more than two adults can occupy each STR bedroom.
  • STR properties cannot be used for weddings, concerts or similar events.
  • If an STR shares a driveway with one or more other properties, all the owners affected must consent in writing to its use by the rental.

During public comment, Rudy van Dommele, who offers Airbnb rentals, reminded the board of earlier comments by residents critical of regulations. “The board members work for the public,” he said. “So, really, what’s important is what the public thinks.” 

Tom Corless, a former Nelsonville mayor, said the law’s provisions on ensuring safety make sense, but that the 100-day cap and granting only 15 Class A permits are a problem. Recalling that Nelsonville once had many rundown houses, he said that STR income can help owners maintain their properties. 

Former Trustee Dove Pedlosky observed that village homes are often close together. In that setting, “100 days is a lot,” she said, adding that a neighboring STR with renters coming 100 times yearly “would be problematic for me.” Pedlosky also said that under the village code each existing STR operation probably operates illegally but the new law “makes it lawful.” 

Pearl Street resident Carol Thomas said, “I bought my house because I want to live in a community with other homeowners. I’m not willing to live next to somebody who’s got freaking people coming in the weekends.” 

Van Dommele and Corless tried to debunk fears. 

“I don’t know if there’s anybody here who has even seen one of those Airbnbers who make our community unsafe,” van Dommele said.

“I don’t think there’s a danger with transients, or whatever you want to call them,” Corless added. 

2 thoughts on “Nelsonville Limits Short-Term Rentals

  1. We want to thank the Nelsonville Board of Trustees and outgoing Mayor Bowman for all of the time and effort they put into the recent regulations that were passed regarding Short-Term Rentals (STR).

    Following an initial public survey, the board held several workshops and open meetings that encouraged public participation, providing everyone (both for and against) with an opportunity to share their views. During this time, the proposed regulations consistently evolved (and became less stringent) in an effort to address certain public feedback. This open and transparent process is exactly how local government is supposed to work.

    Thoughtful regulation on STR should help preserve the sense of community in our village that has led so many people to remain living here for so long and many more like ourselves to choose to raise our families here, and avoid putting added stress on our limited municipal services such as trash collection, police, fire and EMT.

    Most critically, any increase in STR could exacerbate an already difficult housing stock issue through the elimination of long-term rental opportunities and the reduction in houses for sale. This will make it harder for young adults that grew up here and young families looking to move here to find affordable and available housing – and those are two groups that help keep our schools strong, support our local businesses year round and give back through community service.

    We know that these regulations may have an adverse impact on a handful of residents, who have understandably been the most vocal during the legislative process. But our elected officials have the very difficult job of trying to make decisions that are in the best interests of the entire community at large (by whom they have been elected to represent those interests), and we believe that the board has succeeded in doing that with this process and the law that was passed.

  2. I want to thank Trustees Chris Winward, Dave Moroney and Maria Zhynovitch for voting for and passing the Nelsonville STR law.

    This is a well-thought-out and fair law. I have lived in both Cold Spring and Nelsonville for 70-plus years, the last 48 on Main Street in Nelsonville. Growing up, we kids weren’t happy with the fact that all the neighbors new each other and were watching everything we did. Raising my own children, I appreciated knowing there were others looking out for my kids and my house.

    Back then there was very little crime in the village. It was like having our own neighborhood watch. Right now, I have no idea who owns the house next to me. There are strangers coming in and out every weekend and the owner shows up once a week with clean towels and sheets. My biggest concern is that our houses are so close that if there’s a fire next door, my home would also go up in flames. So, thank you again for a law that helps to put my mind a little at ease.

    I also want to endorse Chris Winward for mayor and Dave Maroney and Alan Potts for trustees. I have known Dave for over 30 years and Chris and Alan since they moved here. Although they didn’t grow up here, they have the same values we long timers have. I know we have to progress with the times, but that doesn’t mean we have to lose the values we grew up with and I’m sure Chris, Dave and Alan will make sure that doesn’t happen.