Featured Story

Town Attorney seeks advice on policing short-term rental violations



Town Attorney Bob DeStefano Jr. sought advice from the Town Board at its Tuesday work session about enforcing the short-term rental (STR) law.

While police can respond to noise complaints, Mr. DeStefano wanted suggestions on who should be handling calls from residents reporting their neighbors for renting their houses more often than the law allows.

Fire Marshal Arthur Bloom had advised him that in East Hampton, where Mr. Bloom had been a code enforcement officer, the practice had been to visit a house when an initial complaint was made and then to revisit it right after that period of occupation ended to check to see if a second rental followed immediately.

Mr. Bloom was terminated from his East Hampton post in December after being found guilty by a departmental review for misconduct stemming from his discarding a violation warning issued to a Montauk property owner.

Mr. Bloom and several other former East Hampton town officials are suing the town on a number of issues, including, according to Mr. Bloom, unlawful termination, age discrimination, sexual harassment and circumventing civil service laws.

Supervisor Gary Gerth told the Reporter Tuesday that he’s conferred with people who know about the East Hampton situation and was told it was a political decision to remove several people there. Mr. Gerth said he’s completely comfortable with the work Mr. Bloom is doing for Shelter Island.

As Shelter Island’s fire marshal, STR code enforcement doesn’t fall within Mr. Bloom’s responsibilities, but Mr. DeStefano asked the board if his job should be expanded,

That concerned Councilman Paul Shepherd, who said Mr. Bloom’s work is part-time. If his job is expanded, the position could become full-time with costs for more hours and benefits.

Mr. DeStefano asked if the town should find another part-time employee to handle STR code enforcement. Councilman Jim Colligan pointed out that the town attorney had noted only a handful of STR complaints and said they tend to happen during the summer months. He suggested it was possible to give those responsibilities to Mr. Bloom without pushing the job into a full-time schedule.

Board members decided to postpone further discussion, suggesting they might discuss the issue in a closed, executive session, which might not be legitimate under the New York State Open Meetings Law. If the Town Board is discussing the basic responsibilities of a job, that must happen in an open session.

If they’re discussing remuneration to a particular person they’re considering for a job, they can legitimately do that in an executive session.

Shelter Island has been plagued this spring by noise from helicopters flying overhead, resident Doug Sherrod told the board and asked Supervisor Gary Gerth to speak to East Hampton officials — where the choppers land and take off — this week when he attends a meeting of East End Supervisors and Mayors Association to voice complaints about the noise.

Mr. Colligan noted that the helicopters were a problem in 2016, but much improved in 2017. This year, they are back with a vengeance, he said.

Mr. Sherrod suggested the town ask for a manifest of passengers using the helicopters, suggesting politicians attending South Fork fundraisers may be loathe to crack down on the rules because they ride the helicopters.

Mr. Colligan suggested that more people must voice their complaints by calling the hotline that tracks the helicopter complaints. But Mr. Sherrod said it’s more effective for people to use an app on their cellphones since that gets their message transcribed as they mean it to be, not as a person handling the call might record the complaint.

Complaints about problems with anglers and parties at Bootlegger Alley are gradually being resolved. Mr. Colligan said. He spoke with fishermen there recently, explaining that when they leave hooks on the ground, people walking their dogs have concerns their pets might be injured. He said when he visited the site later in the day the fisherman had cleaned up the area.

At the same time, teens partying in the area have been responsible for leaving garbage and beer cans and bottles there. Mr. Colligan credited both the Police and Highway departments with helping clear the area and cracking down on those responsible.