Proposed changes include dropping lottery
The Cold Spring Village Board, at its Wednesday (May 18) workshop, began discussions that will almost certainly result in significant changes to the regulation of short-term rentals, such as those booked at Airbnb.
The existing law was adopted, 3-2, by the previous administration in July.
“Why are we undertaking a review of the law so soon?” asked Mayor Kathleen Foley, who as a trustee before the November election voted against the law. “Simple answer is, it’s not working.”
Foley said there have been only four applications for the permits required under the law. It is estimated about 35 STRs operate in the village.
“It’s clear that there has been something of an organized civil disobedience,” Foley said. “Multiple owners and operators have refused to apply for permits, and that alone should tell us the law doesn’t work.”
She said the STRs operating without inspections deprive the village of revenue from application and permit fees while “contributing nothing to the municipal costs associated with tourism,” including wear and tear on infrastructure.
The village has received 20 complaints about STRs since the law was enacted, although 18 were made by one person against 18 STRs, two of which were operating with permits. None were “nuisance” complaints over issues such as noise.
The village issued notices to the STR owners operating without permits, “and they will be issued again if operations do not cease,” Foley said.
One shortcoming of the existing law, Foley said, is that after an initial inspection the burden for enforcement falls on the Cold Spring Police Department, even though violations are civil, not criminal, in nature. The draft revisions include shifting enforcement to the building inspector/code enforcement officer.
Several of the revisions being considered will simplify the law, which, when it was being drafted last year, was described as too complex by a number of STR operators, some of whom hinted at legal action against the village.
Major revisions being discussed include abolishing use of a lottery system for issuing permits; deleting the stipulation that STRs cannot operate within 300 feet of each other; increasing the permit period from one to two years; banning STRs where the owner does not live on-site; providing no limits on the number of permits for hosted STRs; and increasing the number of operating days from 90 to 180 per year.
The proposed revisions were drafted by Trustee Eliza Starbuck and are available at coldspringny.gov.
“We’re at the very beginning of this discussion,” Foley said. “There will be a lot of pieces that shift; there will be elements that some will be unhappy with, no matter what we do.”
The board has called for volunteers to serve on an ad hoc committee to provide feedback on the proposed changes. The deadline for applications is Wednesday (May 25). A public hearing is required before any changes are made.
I enjoy using STRs when I travel and have a neutral/pro attitude to the subject. I endorse the updated code (so far), particularly the “no unhosted” change and I’m please the board recognizes the STR operators, as a whole, lack a good faith effort (is lack of integrity too harsh?) to work with the residents of our community.
An ad-hoc committee in lieu of any STR operator(s) willing to problem-solve the compliance of the other STR operators, is a clear example of their dismissive attitude toward the concept of “compliance.” Last week, rejection of vetted tracking software, on some vague claim of privacy violation, to refusal to have inspections, to refusal to acknowledge a need for reasonable regulation. “Call the police” if there is a noise complaint, and yet, over-policing is an issue for Cold Spring? Why are your responsibilities your neighbor’s problem? And how will the village enforce compliance? Letters sent is good for a file, but how do you actually shut down a non-compliant STR operator?
I read with great amusement the folly-ridden negotiations around the short-term rental law adopted by the Village Board. One particular idea stands out as wholly untenable: the notion that the law can be enforced. Thus, in lieu of the police department, the code-enforcement office will control enforcement.
The code-enforcement department already has far too much to do, and does far too little as it is. It has always been thus. Much of what it enforces is selective, and it does a poor job — unable to prioritize or recognize serious matters to the point of malfeasance. The notion that it would control short-term rental policies is a fantasy. You’d get better results with an honor system.
For my money, the present code-enforcement unit needs to be gutted and replaced with competent and courteous officials before it can even begin to do its job.