At its June 11 meeting, the Gardiner Town Board voted unanimously to extend for another six months the moratorium on “the processing and approval of new applications for certain tourism-related accommodation land uses” that it had passed in December 2018. While the board has made considerable progress toward its goal of updating the language of the town’s 2008 Zoning Code to provide better guidance on decisions regarding contemporary tourist accommodations such as AirBnBs, its members concurred that more time was needed to complete the tasks they had taken on. “Our hope is that we do not have to go the whole six-month extension,” said town supervisor Marybeth Majestic.
The moratorium as adopted specifically applies to “the processing and approval of new applications for building permits, special use permits, special permits, variances, site plan approval, lot line revision, subdivision approval or other approvals or permission related to the undertaking, establishment, placement, development, excavation, enlargement, construction or erection of the following in the Town: 1) Camps; 2) Low-Impact Recreation; 3) Recreational Camps and Facilities; 4) Lodging Facilities; 5) Resorts; 6) Tourist Camps; 7) Travel Trailer Parks; and 8) Glamping Facilities.”
A public hearing on the extension was opened and closed at the meeting without any public comment. However, considerable spirited input was offered from residents who rent out all or parts of their homes on a seasonal basis when the board turned its discussion to the topic of a proposed Short-Term Rental Law that is one component of the ongoing update of municipal policies regarding tourism-related accommodations. Supervisor Majestic noted that she had already received “numerous e-mails” in which “the main point of contention was requiring owner-occupancy” while the dwelling was being rented. Several audience members protested that they needed the option of renting out their homes while they were out of town in order to help pay their property taxes. One resident argued that the “owner-occupied rule” would be “pushing business to the big resorts that we’re trying to get rid of.”
In an effort to determine how many properties in Gardiner would be impacted by such a law, Majestic said that she was awaiting data from the Ulster County Planning Department, while councilman David Dukler reported that research he had done via the AirBnB website indicated 43 whole-house rentals currently being advertised in or near the Town of Gardiner. “I also looked at how many people they can accommodate,” Dukler said, noting that of the 43, only six were potential “party houses” with room for 12 or more renters at one time. “The thing that brought this to everybody’s attention is the party house issue,” mainly involving noise complaints, he noted. “We need to stay focused on that immediate, egregious issue.”
An audience member who identified himself as Ray Vargas said that he worked for a company that manages more than 30 short-term rental properties in Ulster County and has developed a list of “best practices” to which clients are expected to adhere, including having short-term rental insurance, security cameras and noise detectors. Citing the popularity of larger homes for family reunions, Vargas said, “Don’t just assume because a house sleeps ten people means it’s a party house.” A permitting process utilizing registered property managers was suggested by several as an alternative to an outright ban on absentee owners.
“There are many paths to success, many ways we can be accommodating to homeowners and renters and people who come to stay here,” said councilwoman Laura Walls. She cautioned that the town needs to consider the financial impact of short-term rentals on the local housing market in addition to its benefits to existing homeowners, in order to discourage speculative investment in local real estate that would drive up prices. Councilman Franco Carucci added that impacts on local emergency services must also be managed, citing past instances when police and fire departments were called upon to turn off alarms triggered in the middle of the night with no apparent way of contacting the absent owner.
“We’ll continue working on the law, and make no decisions until we get input from the county on the inventory,” Majestic concluded.