Gardiner officials are going back to the drawing board for the design of the proposed Short-Term Rental (STR) Law. A special meeting has been scheduled on March 16 for the Town Board to discuss changes to the new legislation, which will make home rentals of under 30 consecutive nights legal in Gardiner for the first time, as well as regulate them.
The decision at the March 2 Town Board meeting followed closure of the second session of a public hearing on the topic, which was once again well-attended, though not entirely by opponents of the legislation. More neighbors of problematic STRs turned out this time to share their stories of noise, poor maintenance and trespassers on their own properties. “I get countless cars coming up my driveway because they’ve made the wrong turn,” said one resident, Warren Christopher. Another, John Petry, said that the house next door to him rents for $2,000 per night and accommodates as many as 25 people at a time. “I didn’t sign up to live next to a hotel,” he said.
Petry had harsh words for the attorney representing the Short-Term Rental Association of Gardiner (STRAG), Brandon McKenzie of Moss & Moss, LLP, whom he called a “Park Avenue lawyer.” He was not the only one to take issue with McKenzie’s tactic of repeatedly pointing out the inadequacy of the town’s $30,000 budget for litigation in 2021, which the attorney insisted was “not intended to be a threat.” Town supervisor Marybeth Majestic and three of the four board members averred that it did indeed sound to them like a threat of a lawsuit.
Other attendees who came to oppose the proposed law, including STRAG organizer Todd Baker, insisted that they do not object in principle to some regulation, but to certain parameters that they feel are too restrictive, arbitrary or even “Draconian.” One STR operator likened the proposed limit on rentals to 100 days per year to “killing a fly with a shotgun.” Others faulted the requirement that the rented building be the owner’s primary residence, with several citing financial hardships that make it impossible for them to remain homeowners in Gardiner without the ability to live elsewhere temporarily while using their house as an income source.
Following the discussion, several Town Board members acknowledged that a new draft of the legislation might be created that would soften some of the criticism. “There are a number of issues that are worth talking about,” said councilman Warren Wiegand, who suggested the special meeting.
If the changes made in the proposed STR law are substantive, another round of public hearings will have to be scheduled thereafter.