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Shelter Island Reporter Letters to the Editor

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO The Town Board recently held a public hearing on proposed short-term rental legislation. Readers weighed in this week on the issue. From left, Assistant Town Clerk Sharon Jacobs, Town Clerk Dorothy Ogar, Councilwoman Amber Brach- Williams, Councilman Jim Colligan, Supervisor Jim Dougherty, Councilman Paul Shepherd, Councilwoman Chris Lewis and Town Attorney Laury Dowd.
The Town Board recently held a public hearing on proposed short-term rental legislation. Readers weighed in this week on the issue. From left, Assistant Town Clerk Sharon Jacobs, Town Clerk Dorothy Ogar, Councilwoman Amber Brach- Williams, Councilman Jim Colligan, Supervisor Jim Dougherty, Councilman Paul Shepherd, Councilwoman Chris Lewis and Town Attorney Laury Dowd.

Enough rules
To the Editor:
I can fully understand the cry for some legislation so that Shelter Island does not become the melting pot for partiers who have been turned away from Montauk, which is not a pretty scene.

However, what to do with the wedding participants for off-Island families who need housing for guests and all of the hotels and B&Bs are full? These rentals generally go from Thursday to Monday — five days — and are often done at a moment’s notice.

Some of these rentals that I’ve done in my office have not even been listed for rent, but owners see an opportunity to help someone out and make a few dollars. And why not?

Over the years I’ve been in the real estate business, I’ve done many of these short-term rentals and not had a problem — maybe a few little issues but easily solved. Call me and I’ll give you the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Airbnb has a “community commitment” — check it out.

The Town Board might want to take a look at this. It pretty much says all that everyone — or should I say half of the people of Shelter Island are complaining about. Common courtesy and common sense should be the defining factors here. No more paper work, please! We already have enough rules and many of them are rather costly and time-consuming.
Shelter Island

Unintended consequences
To the Editor:
First, let me thank the Town Board for its meeting of January 27 on short-term rental (STR) regulations. It gave me a much better understanding of the situation. This is a very difficult issue.

From my perspective, the supporters of STRs presented their argument with well-documented facts, while those opposed to them presented anecdotal speculation and fear of undesirables.

I’ve been coming to Shelter Island since the 1980s. My wife and I purchased a home here in 1997. We were able to rent our home three or four times over the years when we needed to supplement our income. The rentals ranged from one week to seasonal. I was a bit disturbed by someone who commented that STRs attract less desirable people. I’m not sure what that means. How is desirability measured?

No one wants the Island turned into “party central” with all the noise and nuisance. But where’s the proof that STRs are causing that here, and if so, on what scale? The document compiled by the supporters of STRs does a nice job describing the regulation and laying out the facts, arguments and legal issues. I have no reason to question the data. I urge anyone unsure of their position to get a copy of the document. Let’s take a common sense approach and leave the situation as is, but with a few additions. Then, over the next year, compile real facts and observations as they relate to this issue. Examine the data and revisit this again next year.

I do think a “good neighbor” brochure is a good idea. It will communicate the Island’s values and expectations for renters and visitors. I could also support a registration fee for anyone renting their home seasonally, coupled with strict enforcement of the existing noise ordinance. (Perhaps a regulation that states three complaints logged in a season and you lose the right to register for a year.) I also think having a local contact person in case of problems is a smart first step.

We don’t have to move so quickly. First, see if there’s a problem that needs fixing. Over-reaction may lead to unintended consequences for both the town and individual homeowners.

I don’t think this “problem” has been looked at critically enough to make a reasonable decision.
Shelter Island

National rental debate
To the Editor:
I appreciate the attention the Town Board has spent on short term rentals (STRs) and thank it for not rushing into legislation.

I have watched as STRs have gone from noise complaints to affordable housing to commercialization of residential neighborhoods to a cause for public school student decline. We have seen how this subject has divided our community. We have talked about a good neighbor brochure for STR tenants that outlines common courtesies we should all live by. If all of us (year-round, weekenders, long/short-term residents) had given neighborly courtesy and simply spoken to each other, this would not have been a Town Board topic that has divided an amazing community.

The STR complaints are minimal; they do not affect the health/safety of our population. What seems to be a fairly common issue both to some on the board and some who oppose STRs is they want to know exactly who their neighbors are and want to see the same faces. This does not constitute a public health/safety issue.

We are aware that there has been some discussion about STRs on the national stage. Governor Cuomo signed a law prohibiting advertising for the use of dwelling units in a class-A multiple-dwelling. This specifically applies to New York City and makes no mention of single-family homes.

To quote Florida State Senator Greg Steube: “Property owners who own their homes and live in them full time, property owners who choose to rent their property on a long-term basis, and property owners who choose to use their property as a short-term rental, all have the same protections under our constitution. It is incumbent on government to treat them equally.”

Arizona recently passed and signed into law legislation that prohibits a city or town from restricting the use of vacation rentals or short-term rentals. Florida, Indiana, Idaho and many other states are using this as a model.

States are firmly taking hold of things to legislate that towns follow state constitutions. A compelling reason, which protects people’s health/safety, is needed. This is different from zoning as they are taking away a constitutional right.

STRs pose no public health/safety issues, but boost the local economy. Please read what states like Arizona and Florida are doing and take this into consideration as you are choosing what path to take on this issue.
Shelter Island

Rentals are like baymen
To the Editor:
I have compared Shelter Island’s tourist economy to Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, Fire Island, Block Island and Fishers Island because they have no regulations regarding vacation rentals. I asked the mayors and police chiefs for a reason. They all said summer rentals are absolutely essential to their economies and island businesses.

Without seasonal rentals, the restaurants — including hotel restaurants — markets, docks, farm stands, charitable events and the incomes of the landscapers, housekeepers, nannies, plumbers, pool services, marinas, bike rentals, kayak rentals, realtors, gas stations, golf courses, contractors and carpenters severely decline.

The same is true for Shelter Island. Rental income pays for town taxes, dock fees, Goat Hill, beach permits and pads the Police Department’s ticket quota. North and South ferry have their highest revenue in the summer months, provided by summer visitors and Island guests who rent here. Rental income floats this Island economically; without it, we bankrupt all the hardworking people who depend upon it. Tourism is our No. 1 industry, and it only occurs seasonally.

The Town Board needs a compelling reason to change the law regarding short-term rentals. At this point, there is none. I hear personal anecdotes, but no facts and absolutely no data to support restricting them. Where is the evidence that short-term rentals are “destroying” the Island? This tradition of welcoming vacationers has occurred for 150 years. Do not over-regulate this non-problem and turn this town into Southold, where you need a permit to run a yard sale!

You cannot change law based solely on angry, elitist voices who say, “Not in my backyard.” That’s not a compelling need.

We enjoyed Keith Clark’s impassioned letter to help Island baymen stay in business on Congdon Road. The board listened.

Summer rentals are like baymen, part of the fabric of the Island’s long history.

Guess what? Uber, Amazon and Airbnb are here to stay. Technology changes the world for the better, with better efficiency daily. The foolish and the ignorant violently rejected the telephone when it was invented. Do you really prefer two tin cans and a string? Hello? Can you hear me? It’s 2017.

Please join over 530 supporters by visiting change.org and search “Support Shelter Island’s Short Term Rentals.” Sign, like, and share on Facebook. Thank you for the tremendous support in standing behind our local businesses and respecting the traditions of this beautiful Island.
Shelter Island

No evidence
To the Editor:
I’ve addressed the Town Board in the past and attended the recent public hearing for short-term rentals (STRs). There were passionate stories from both sides and two main arguments from those opposed to STRs: 1. The claim that STRs are the cause of an affordable housing crisis and 2. Stricter regulations and specifically, two-week minimum stays should be in place.

There is no evidence proving STRs are to blame for lack of affordable housing and certainly nothing about the draft as it stands that would result in more affordable housing available to those in need.

The board can and should enact separate programs to address this, as other neighboring towns have done. Have those blaming STRs for lack of affordable housing been as vocal and supportive of recent proposals brought to the town? Or have they sat on the sidelines while the board votes “No.”

At the hearing, many who spoke, regardless of which side, admitted homeowners should be entitled to rent their homes as was custom, with a big “But …” followed by whatever restrictions suited their personal preference for the “status quo,” including renting their own home or other properties on a short-term basis. Hypocrisy!

To add to the hypocrites, there are the misinformed: Those same folks agreeing short-term renting is a “homeowner right,” call for more strict regulations and a minimum stay of two weeks. This will all but eliminate the ability for people to rent their homes for whatever reason — to supplement a retired income, help a young family make their home on the Island or people with disabilities supporting their families. Gone are the days where the wife and children are at a vacation home for a month and the husband joins the family on the weekends.

Most households today rely on two incomes; the average vacation allowance for an annual period is 16 days, 20 days at the high end. Despite offering discounts for longer stays and listing through real estate, I have had zero luck renting my home for two weeks or more. There is simply no demand for longer vacation accommodations.

I respectfully request the board spend more time drafting a program to address affordable housing and less time pandering to the unfounded demands to restrict STRs, which would, without a doubt, harm local homeowners and businesses alike.
Shelter Island

Show some respect
To the Editor:
I usually read Peter Waldner’s Paw Print cartoons in the weekly editions of the Reporter. Recognizing he is left-leaning, I think he tries to bring balance to the issues through his cartoons.

However, his contempt for President Trump is thinly veiled when he makes a perfunctory reference to our president, depicting a Trump-like groundhog in the February 2, 2017 edition. Further, the accompanying wording in the blurb is very Trump-ese.

Tsk, tsk, Mr. Waldner. I value respect for the office of president. Do you? Show President Trump the respect deserving of one who fulfills the title.
Shelter Island