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Short-term rental legislation to get a make over

REPORTER FILE PHOTO Booking short-term stays on the Island over the internet have proliferated on Shelter Island over the past two summers.

REPORTER FILE PHOTO Booking short-term stays on the Island over the internet have proliferated on Shelter Island over the past two summers.

The town’s short-term rental law is getting a tune-up.

Pulled from work session agendas the last couple of weeks to work out details, the short-term (STR) legislation will probably have a provision added that, according to Town Attorney Bob DeStefano Jr., will give some “relief” to Islanders who own only one house on the Island and their residence is “not available for a long-term rental.”

“We’re asking how we can make the law less onerous on the person who is, for example, paying off a mortgage so they can afford to live here,” Mr. DeStefano said.

The new revisions also address “quality of life issues,” Mr. DeStefano said, such as strengthening enforcement of parking and noise regulations. In addition, the law needs to clear up some details  such as inconsistent clauses, the town attorney said.

There had been talks during the election season last fall of repealing the law; candidate Gary Gerth, who is now supervisor, had been in favor of it.

But, as Councilman Paul Shepherd told the Reporter, the board has to face the political reality that there are three members on the present board — Mr. Shepherd, Councilman Jim Colligan and Councilwoman Amber Brach-Williams  — who helped draft and voted for the legislation a year ago.

After more than a year of almost weekly debates, with public meetings that descended into shouting matches and personal attacks, the board voted to implement the law, 4-1, with then-Supervisor Jim Dougherty casting the lone “no vote” in April  2017.

With the vote, Shelter Island joined the other East End towns putting restrictions on STRs, including, among other provisions ,that non-owner occupied residences be registered and licensed by the town; they must abide by advertising restrictions; and no rental in a non-owner occupied residence will be allowed more than once in any 14 day period.

Complicating the issue is a lawsuit filed in federal court last August by two full-time and four part-time Shelter Island residents. The legal action accuses the town and the Town Board of violating their rights under federal, state and local laws, including the right to equal protection, due process, fundamental property rights and the town’s zoning regulations.

The plaintiffs ask for “a preliminary and permanent injunction” from enforcement of the STR law and a “declaration that the STR law is a violation of Plaintiffs’ rights under the constitutions of the United States and the State of New York.”

In addition, the suit asks for “attorneys’ fees, expert fees” and other unnamed expenses, as well as “such other relief as this Court deems just and appropriate.”

Mr. DeStefano said the suggestions for changing the STR law will most likely be on the agenda of the Tuesday, April 10 Town Board work session.