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No change on short-term rental law

COURTESY PHOTO

There won’t be another vote on Shelter Island’s short-term rental law (STR) — at least not in the foreseeable future — despite a charge that the law passed by the Town Board is “invalid.”

The charge came from Kathryn Klenawicus, a staunch foe of the STR law, who maintains the legislation is invalid because it is “materially different” from what was discussed at a public hearing on June 14 in advance of the vote.

While acknowledging there were six changes in the law from the draft that was discussed at the hearing, Town Attorney Bob DeStefano Jr. said none of the changes were “materially different” from the advertised law, but merely minor clarifications to the document.

Ms. Klenawicus cited six changes she believes from the proposed law:
• In one instance, she objected to the change referring to the definition of what constitutes immediate family, from “his or her domestic partner” to “his or her spouse, domestic partner.”
• A similar change to what constitutes the nuclear family was changed from “his or her domestic partner” to “his or her spouse, domestic partner.”
• The third change to which Ms. Klenawicus objected was a reference on vacation rentals that now reads “Trustee, Beneficiary or Settlor, if a trust,” when the draft law read “Trustee or Settlor, if a trust.”
• The fourth change originally read “submission of federal income tax returns” and it was changed to read “submission of an appropriate redacted copy of federal tax returns for the most recent year.”
• The fifth change inserted a clause that had been absent from the draft. It read “the term shall commence on the first day of occupancy.”
• In the sixth case she cited, there was a reference to “requirements of this Section” and it was changed to “requirements of this Chapter.”

Registration is the law
Although a grace period to register as an STR property before enforcement has ended, Mr. DeStefano said the law was “not written to be terribly punitive.” Anyone discovered offering property as an STR, without having registered with the town, will be asked to do so. Only if they refuse will they be cited, he said.

Some of the Island’s real estate professionals are refusing to advertise STR properties that don’t have a registration number. Penelope Moore of Saunders said the attorney for her company has advised staff members not to advertise any listings that lack registration numbers, concerned that the company could be fined for doing so. Some real estate professionals on the Island are following that practice while others believe they would not be culpable.

Mr. DeStefano said those who do advertise unregistered STRs would get the same letters going to property owners, advising them not to advertise those properties operating the STRs illegally. Only if they persisted in doing so would action against them be taken.

At Tuesday’s Town Board work session, Fire Marshal Arthur Bloom reported 84 registrants who have filed for long-term rentals, but only 22 who have filed for STRs.

That concerns board members. Councilman Paul Shepherd said it was “discouraging” that there appears to be resistance to the registration process.

Councilman Jim Colligan called it “upsetting,” but said he doesn’t “want to go to war” with the resisters. On the other hand, the town needs to be “diligent” because STR registrations are “far below where they should be.”

Mr. DeStefano said after notices go out to those advertising STRs without a registration number reminding them to register, the next step would be notices for a court appearance. He said in addition to any fine a court might impose, the town would be able to take rent received by a property owner who had failed to register.

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