At the February 9 Gardiner Town Board meeting, owner/operators and employees of short-term rental (STR) facilities in the town turned out in force for the first of several public hearings for a proposed local law amending Chapter 20 of the town code. Its passage would constitute the first legislation making STRs legal in Gardiner, as well as regulating them.
While a few Gardinerites showed up in support of the law, including a couple of residents who claimed to live nearby a problematic “party house,” the majority of attendees at the remote meeting were there to protest various aspects of the new restrictions. Among them were several individuals pleading financial hardship: a young woman who argued that the only way she could secure future homeownership in Gardiner was by renting out her house while living in an apartment within closer commuting distance of New York City; two disabled veterans whose livelihoods depend on doing maintenance work on AirBnBs; and a retired artist who lives in her studio while renting out her main house.
Also on hand, objecting to nearly all the provisions in the proposed law, were some entrepreneurs who have bought up multiple buildings as investments to be used as STRs – the type of absentee owner/operators primarily targeted by the new legislation. Their interests are represented by an ad hoc organization called the Short-Term Rental Association of Gardiner (STRAG), which this time brought along an attorney: Brandon McKenzie of the New York City law firm Moss & Moss, LLP.
McKenzie contended that “a lot of the language in the amendment…will not withstand judicial scrutiny.” Noting that many STR operators book rooms many months in advance, McKenzie argued that the town’s “interfering with preexisting contracts” is “actionable.” In the chat function accompanying the Zoom meeting, he openly threatened a lawsuit, asking, “Is the town equipped for the costs and administrative burdens of investigations, enforcement, hearings, litigation (e.g., Article 78 proceedings) and things that emanate logically from legislation of this nature?”
Under the new law, which defines “short-term” as a period of under 30 consecutive nights, only the owner’s primary residence is eligible to become a STR. The definition of “primary residence” also includes “any accessory use or habitable accessory structures on the same property.”
An owner of a whole-house rental will be limited to renting it out for a maximum of 100 days per calendar year. Only one party may rent it at a time, with a maximum of five bedrooms and ten adult guests. Absent owners must designate a local “host” who is responsible to respond promptly to any emergencies that may arise at the residence. Partial-house rentals where the owner remains in residence in the building will not be subject to the 100-day time limitation.
All STRs in Gardiner will require an annual permit, issued at the discretion of the building inspector/code enforcement officer, who will also monitor compliance with rules and standards as stipulated in the new law. The permit fee is not specified, but will be set by the Town Board at its annual organization meeting each January.
The Town Board did not respond directly to any of the concerns expressed during the public hearing portion of the meeting, and town supervisor Marybeth Majestic promised that the hearing phase would continue at least through the board’s March meeting and likely beyond. Residents can also send comments to the board by mail or via e-mail. The full text of the proposed law can be read at www.townofgardiner.org/short-term-rental-law.