Shelter Island Reporter Editorial

REPORTER FILE PHOTO Town government has spent 10 months discussing short-term rental legislation.
REPORTER FILE PHOTO Town government has spent 10 months discussing short-term rental legislation.

Short term?
A member of the Town Board recently said, “I have a good attention span, but after 10 months it strays a little.”

The member was speaking about the discussions on regulating short-term rentals that have been a weekly feature of the board’s work sessions since May. We’re promised that there will be a public hearing on the issue in January, and to that we can add: Hallelujah.

But the January hearing won’t be the last airing of this contentious subject that has divided residents and included meetings at Town Hall that have strayed into the ugly. The board is considering including in any legislation it comes up with that it can revisit the law sometime in the fall of 2017 to see how it worked through the summer.

The rationale is that the board can analyze what went right and what went wrong. This seems a dangerous route toward more repetitive discussions, more debate interpreting data and more calculations of how many short-term renters can dance on the head of a pin.

Legislators should express confidence in their actions when they make laws. This is what they were elected to do, not to hem and haw and tell everyone not to worry, that if we screwed something up we’ll do it all over again and if you’ve got a beef, come see us.

The board has done its work, especially Councilman Jim Colligan and Councilwoman Mary Dudley, who should be commended for studying the issue and trying to hammer out sensible regulations. Councilman Paul Shepherd — no surprise — has been blunt about trying to keep the discussion focused, being the first of his colleagues to perceive the issue is not just one of quality of life problems stemming from a few liquored-up boors spending a weekend here, but might be one of speculators buying up houses to rent on a short-term basis.

This months-long debate to craft legislation has become a case of if it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing. Everything has been said. In fact everything was said some time ago.

A public hearing is coming — we live in hope — when everyone will have the chance to voice opinions, again, and then a law will be passed. And the board members should live with their decision and stand their ground if some people are dissatisfied.