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Residents protest airbnbs to Town Board


Sylvan Road residents want the Town Board to take action to stop the proliferation of airbnbs in their neighborhood.

Supervisor Jim Dougherty introduced the subject at Tuesday’s work session, saying he has received several complaints. It’s a situation, the supervisor added, that the town needs to “keep an eye on.”

But residents who showed up at Town Hall said that keeping an eye on the situation wasn’t enough for them.

A major problem is no regulations and no oversight, one resident said, noting that the difference between an airbnb and a B&B is that the latter is licensed and owners must live on the premises.

Another resident said he didn’t come to live on Shelter Island to be surrounded by people having late night parties, drinking and making noise all hours of the day and night. He sees the airbnbs as commercial operations on a residential street. One neighbor, he added, had to fence in her property to avoid out-of-control visitors next door..

He suggested the town adopt a resolution placing a minimum of 30 days that anyone could list a house for a short-term rental, suggesting that would limit the incidence of party houses cropping up in residential neighborhoods.

The board agreed the subject will be discussed fully at next week’s Tuesday work session.

The issue surfaced last September when it was determined there were 77 listings for airbnbs on the Island. Of those, only a few were registered B&Bs, whose owners said they listed themselves with airbnb services as a means of attracting more customers.

Councilman Jim Colligan weighed in on recent board discussions about “proportionality,” or what size structures can be built on a given lot.

Between 1993 and 1997, 84 houses were built with the average size of 2,426 square feet, Mr. Colligan said. Ten years later there were 149 houses built with an average square footage of 3,143. While the discussion about proportionality isn’t aimed at large houses alone, he said, there needs to be concern for size since larger houses mean more bedrooms and bathrooms and more water usage.

The town doesn’t want to be overly restrictive, but is trying to find a proposal that would be “fair and reasonable” in an effort to protect water resources, Mr. Colligan said.

An informal survey he took in Silver Beach among 91 people revealed that 32 percent said they had experienced issues with water. There were 61 percent who said houses larger than 4,000 square feet were changing Island neighborhoods for the worse.

“It is our job to think about protecting the character of Shelter Island,” Mr. Colligan said.

In other business, the Town Board:
• Discussed alternative site locations at Volunteer Park for a bathroom installation that is expected to take place by mid-summer, according to Mr. Dougherty.
• Plans are proceeding to install a new septic system that will serve both Shelter Island School and the American Legion Post that’s also used as the town’s Youth Center, Mr. Dougherty said.
• Since the irrigation law went on the books last year, there are 37 people with underground irrigation systems who haven’t registered them. With the second year’s registration due, those with such systems must register them, Town Attorney Laury Dowd said.
• The Public Employer Risk Management Association has honored Shelter Island for its efforts to keep workers safe and implement systems that make jobs less risky. In a film announcing the honor, the organization noted that the town’s claims for workers compensation have decreased markedly and when a worker does get injured, he or she is back on the job within seven days.