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Public hearing on STR changes

REPORTER FILE PHOTO Booking short-term stays on the Island over the internet.
REPORTER FILE PHOTO Booking short-term stays on the Island over the internet.

The Town Board has scheduled a public hearing for Friday, May 25 at Town Hall on proposed changes to the short-term rental (STR) law.

According to Town Attorney Bob DeStefano Jr., the reason a new draft of the law was written is for “consistency and clarity.”

On the most controversial parts of the law — how often a property owner can rent their premises to vacationing guests — is confusing in the law as written, Mr. DeStefano said, since it’s described “in one place that you could rent once every two weeks and in another place it’s worded in such a way to sound as if you have to rent for the full two weeks each time.”

The intention of the law is to restrict owners renting to guests to once in a two-week period.

Confusion in the law now on the books is because it was “tweaked” by board members continuously and “it didn’t come out clearly and easy for people to understand,” Mr. DeStefano said.

A major change in the draft would allow signs for homeowners renting their premises, which is banned in the current law. The town attorney said “we had already lost that fight on real estate signs, so we’ve instituted the same requirements” for STR signage to head off a possible lawsuit.

The addition to the law refers to the town code’s restrictions on signs advertising real estate, including that they not be illuminated and don’t exceed 1.5 square feet in area. The signs must also be placed 10 feet from any street or right of way and not placed on any other property except the one for rent.

Mr. DeStefano was asked about a hearing scheduled for next week on the lawsuit filed by six residents in August 2017 in the Eastern District of New York protesting the town’s STR law. After the suit was filed against the town, Mr. DeStefano said, the town’s attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the complaint and the residents subsequently argued against a dismissal.

“May 15 is the date our attorneys will reply to that opposition,” Mr. DeStefano said, adding that it was a “procedural matter” in a case where wheels are grinding slowly.

In the suit, Julia Weisenberg, Dawn Fotopulos, Madeline Fotopulos, Michelle d’Arcambal, Janalyn Travis-Messer and Jennifer Lederman accuse the town 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 constitution of the United Sates and the State of New York.”