Woodstock short-term rental regs pass muster

The Woodstock Town Board unanimously passed zoning amendments regulating short-term rentals in an attempt to strike a balance between allowing people to meet expenses and keep their property and preserving a quality of life.

The new short-term rental law also legalizes the practice for absentee landlords, providing some relief for those who have slipped under the radar but were always in jeopardy. That has its limits, though. The Town Board, in wanting to reach a compromise, limited non-owner-occupied short-term rentals to 180 days or 26 weekends. It also limits them to one property per owner, though some have expressed doubt about enforcement. Property owners may attempt to hide behind multiple limited-liability companies, or LLCs to get around the limit. Supervisor Bill McKenna said on many occasions the names of LLC owners will be required in the application process and an incomplete application will be denied.

“It was a difficult process to reach the compromises we did,” Councilwoman Laura Ricci said in congratulating Councilman Richard Heppner and the short-term rental committee.

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“I want to thank Dennis Doyle and the county planning board,” McKenna said. The county board made recommendations that were incorporated in the law, he noted. “They said we had a solid law,” McKenna said.

“We’re nowhere near done,” Heppner said about the law, cautioning that it doesn’t address the rising rents and shrinking long-term rental inventory, something he looks forward to tackling as part of the newly formed housing committee. There are also other aspects of the short-term rental law that need to be finished, he said. “The application process has to be put in place. We have to set fees,” Heppner said.

Yearly caps, applications and fees were purposely left out so they can be set and changed periodically by resolution, a much quicker and more flexible process.

Short-term rentals will now be regulated in a fashion similar to bed-and-breakfasts, requiring a yearly operating permit and a fire and safety inspection to make sure there are adequate exits, fire extinguishers and smoke alarms to name a few items. Owners must be available in an emergency or have a contact who can respond quickly.

A cap will likely be based on the current number of rentals, which can be anywhere between 300-450. Current owners will be allowed to apply and any remaining units will likely be permitted on a first-come, first-serve basis.

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