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Town Board waiting for proposed changes in STR law

JULIE LANE PHOTO Arthur Bloom outlined the status of the short-term rental law and registrations this summer for the Town Board at Tuesday’s work session.
Arthur Bloom outlined the status of the short-term rental law and registrations this summer for the Town Board at Tuesday’s work session.

Town Board members got an overview of the short-term rental (STR) legislation at Tuesday’s work session and will be looking at flaws that could lead to changes in the controversial law.

Town Attorney Bob DeStefano Jr. has been charged with rewriting the law. It’s expected to be the subject of discussions sometime in September, according to Supervisor Gary Gerth.

“I’m cautious on over regulation,” Mr. Gerth said about the existing law. He wants a revision to address “a whole range” of issues, but most of all, to protect homeowners who need the income from rentals to enable them to stay in their houses and pay off mortgages and/or meet other living expenses.

At the request of Mr. Gerth, Town Fire Marshal Arthur Bloom, who it seems has been in charge of STR regulations, provided an overview that showed fewer property owners registering their houses as STRs this year than in the initial year of the program in the summer of 2017.

There were 31 or 32 registrants last summer, Mr. Bloom told the Town Board. But this year only 12 homeowners have renewed their registrations with six new property owners seeking to register.

Of the six, some have been delayed while they worked out problems with their certificates of occupancy, which had to be rectified to bring them into compliance, Mr. Bloom said.

Using a software program that lists property owners who have registered with airbnb.com or other internet STR sites, Mr. Bloom found four listings that are not registered with the town. Officials knew about two of them, but not the other two, he said.

Mr. Bloom has received complaints from neighbors of four properties being rented as STRs, but none related to noise violations, he said. Instead they were about issues of too many cars being parked at a house, too many people seeming to occupy a house based on the number of available bedrooms and too frequent turnovers from one group of people to another.

Only one of four houses was registered with the town, he said, and that one failed to have a valid certificate of occupancy.

It appears no action has been taken except to contact those known to be renting without registering and they have agreed to register, Mr. Bloom said.

Mr. Bloom noted that he doesn’t do investigations. It’s unclear whether that position belongs to any town appointee.

Mr. Bloom is functioning not as a code enforcement officer but as STR “clerk” charged with handling registrations, Mr. DeStefano said, tracking those who have failed to register and is the first line of contact with respect to complaints.

Mr. DeStefano noted that noise complaints should go to police who can investigate the situation immediately.

With only a little more than a month remaining in the summer tourist season, Mr. DeStefano said no moves to further codify Mr. Bloom’s position will occur until the fall. At that time, the Town Board will decide whether any changes are needed for Mr. Bloom to carry out his current STR responsibilities or whether they need any expansion.

In other actions, the Town Board:
• Endorsed a third try at getting a New York State Parks and Recreation grant to support the upgrading of a bathroom at Crescent Beach. This application has strong support from the Conservation Advisory Committee, the Silver Circle, Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), State Senator Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and County Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac), Mr. Colligan said. He also noted that Mashomack Preserve Director Jeremy Samuelson is applying for a Parks and Recreation Grant, but has said if it conflicts with the Crescent Beach application, he will withdraw his application and wait until the following year.
• Will sign a new contract with grant writer Jennifer Mesiano Higham of Mesiano Consulting to run from July 1, 2018 to July 31, 2019. Mr. Colligan and Councilman Albert Dickson praised Ms. Mesiano Higham for her efforts.