Shandaken grapples with BnBs, AirBnBs, and absentee landlords

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

Town of Shandaken resident Harris Cohn told the town board on June 4 that dwellings in the R1 residential zone “should not be handling transient people,” whether in the form of bed-and-breakfast businesses, short-term rentals such as Airbnb, or wedding venues. He has been disturbed by trespassing on the part of renters occupying nearby homes.

“Your situation is not unique,” Stanley responded, “and it circumvents the town code. It’s clear that a wedding venue or b-and-b is a business, but when it’s someone who is there most of the year and renting out their house for a weekend, it comes into a gray area. The planning board has looked at it several times.”

One option other towns have explored is a temporary revocable permit that would require short-term rental owners to register with the town and submit to a yearly fire inspection. Councilmember Faye Storms said some towns limit the number of such rental properties based on the density of the community, since the buying up of homes for short-term rental limits the availability of long-term rentals for people who can’t afford to buy a house. “The permits are first come, first served,” she explained. “If someone gets more than three complaints, they lose their permit.”


Another possible requirement is that owners, if they are not onsite during the rental period, must designate someone to be available to resolve any complaints by neighbors. Stanley cited local noise complaints and renters leaving garbage out overnight, which draws bears and results in the scattering of trash. In one case, a naïve renter started a fire inside the wall of a building. 

 “We have to make the permits feasible,” said Stanley, “without infringing on personal liberties. There’s no neighborhood left when people buy up the houses for Airbnb.” He urged Cohn to bring his concerns to a planning board meeting.

Skate park

The town board voted to move forward with designing a freestyle skateboard park to replace the old tennis court at Smith Park in Pine Hill. A resolution approved the expenditure of up to $10,000 and the signing of a contract with Pillar Design Studios in Tempe, Arizona, for two alternate plans and assistance in applying for a grant.

Councilmember Kevin Van Blarcum, who is guiding the effort to build a freestyle park, reached out to several design companies. Money to support the project has come from several fundraising events, as well as entry fees for the upcoming Bruce Storey Memorial Golf Tournament.

McGowan new Code Enforcement Officer

The town board hired local builder Howard McGowan to fill the position of code enforcement officer, left vacant by Warren Tutt, who has moved on to another job. McGowan, who has 30 years of construction experience and familiarity with the area, has not been trained in floodplain regulation, so town supervisor Rob Stanley was appointed floodplain administrator until such time as McGowan can receive training. Stanley will earn no extra income from the position. McGowan’s job is full-time and is paid at a rate of $16.50 per hour.

Thanking First Responders

Stanley thanked the town’s first responder crews for their “professional and respectful” assistance in the tragic car accident in Oliverea last month, when two New York City police officers died, one of them having been married just a few hours earlier. “With this in mind, I wanted you all to recognize the commitment made by these men and women of our community, many of whom are volunteers. They made a commitment to provide these services for us and stand steadfast and ready to assist whenever possible. Such commitments should be a reminder of the effort that even the humblest of us can give that touches many lives.”

The board approved a resolution to dedicate the newly constructed bridge on Route 28 in Big Indian to the late fire chief Jody Rossitz. State Senator Seward and Assemblyman Cahill have already agreed to help carry out this designation.

There are 2 comments

  1. maureen millar

    I’m flabbergasted that the town board thinks that 10,000 for plans for a skateboard park is the most important thing the hamlet needs… parking lot improvement in….how long? No sidewalk improvement- no derelict property cleanup- but hey-skateboard park- fancy sign – KRRRAAAZY

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