According to the results of the survey devised by the Shandaken Short-Term Rental Committee, respondents are, as expected, divided on whether and how to regulate STRs in the town. At the committee’s June 10 meeting, town supervisor Rob Stanley said he will not be a member of the new committee that will be formed to draft regulations now that the survey has been completed.
A handful of members of the Shandaken Home-Sharing Association were in attendance, and Stanley invited them to offer a candidate from their ranks to join the new committee. He expressed his intention to provide balance by also inviting a representative of the local lodging industry, perhaps through the Chamber of Commerce. Town board member Kevin VanBlarcum said that regulations probably would not yet be in place by the end of the year.
The survey drew 354 responses, out of a town population of approximately 3000, a census statistic that includes children. (A townwide questionnaire on another topic, submitted a few years ago, resulted in only about 100 responses.) In addition to answering multiple-choice questions on their residential status and opinions about STRs, respondents wrote a total of 14 pages of commentary. Stanley said he would try to post a link to the data, without the identifying information used to weed out duplicates, on the town’s Facebook page.
Among the concerns expressed by survey respondents were safety issues, noise, parking, trespassing, overcrowding within rental spaces, and loss of homes for full-time residence. Almost one-third of respondents are part-time residents. About two-thirds are in favor of requiring permits for STRs, with half of those preferring a standard planning and zoning board application process, although committee members have expressed reluctance, at past meetings, to clog the application channels with site plan perusals of all the town’s STRs. If permits are required, 47.7 percent said they would prefer an annually renewed permitting process, which Stanley said could be as simple as going to the town office and getting an okay if there have been no complaints filed. Over half said longer-term permits would be acceptable.
Among the concerns rated as low-priority by most respondents were months of operation and number of STRs to be allowed in each zone or throughout the town. “That’s the rugged individualism of Shandaken,” commented committee member Sam Spada.
Other issues the committee will have to consider include inspections of STR properties, permitting fees to pay staff for processing and inspection, whether to limit new non-owner-occupied STRs, and whether to require proof of liability insurance in addition to insurance provided by the STR platform.
Stanley will be meeting next week with Paul Hetherington of Host Compliance, to consider whether the town should hire the firm to help craft and enforce STR regulations.
At least on STR owner, one hotel person
The composition of the new committee will be discussed at the July 8 meeting. “We need to have people from planning, zoning, and code enforcement on the committee,” said Stanley. “We don’t want it too large. We’ve been through that with the comprehensive plan. There were 13 people at one point, and it was so volatile, we couldn’t accomplish anything. We’ll have seven, max. We’ll invite at least one STR owner, but we’re also going to have to invite a hotel person.”
One audience member suggested that the issue does not involve hotel owners, but Stanley said, “Those are people who’ve raised concerns.” In the past, STRs have been labeled as unfair competition because they have not been subject to the same regulations and fees as hotels and bed-and-breakfasts.
When another audience member observed that Stanley himself runs a lodging establishment in Pine Hill, he said, “I’m not going to be on the next committee. I have too much else to do. We’ll ask other town board members if they want to be on.” He expects to be out of town for the July meeting.
The new committee should be up and running by the August meeting, and the members will take time to get up to speed on the issues. Once they have written a draft law, it will have to go to the planning and zoning boards for comments. Any resultant revisions will be resubmitted to the boards, and then the town board will take its own look. Once accepted by the town board, the regs will go to a public hearing, with a possible redraft before the town board can vote on adoption. “I wouldn’t expect a lot to happen by the end of 2019,” said VanBlarcum.
The next Shandaken Short-Term Rental Committee meeting will be held on Monday, July 8, at 6:30 p.m. at the town hall, 7209 Route 28, Shandaken.
Full disclosure: The writer rents her full-time residence intermittently on Airbnb but is not a member of the Shandaken Home Sharing Association.