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STR federal lawsuit against town dismissed

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A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit earlier this month brought by several Shelter Island women against the town over the short-term rental (STR) law. Both parties had agreed to the dismissal.

There have been, so far, two lawsuits against the town brought by Julia Weisenberg, Dawn Fotopulos, Madeline Fotopulos, Michelle D’Arcambal, Janalyn Travis-Messer and Jennifer Lederman, and both have now been dismissed.

The major claims of the plaintiffs in the last suit had been addressed by amendments to the original STR law, which passed the Town Board in July, according to Town Attorney Bob DeStefano Jr.

Ms. D’Arcambal told the Reporter that, “Basically there is a new law and the lawsuit was based on a prior law, although we reserved the right to ague that the new law was not properly passed.”

In March, the original suit brought by the women, who are property owners and have real estate interests here, accused 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. That lawsuit had included Ms. Weisenberg, a Republican candidate for Town Council, who was dismissed from the last suit by the federal judge.

The judge decided that since Ms. Weisenberg was an “owner-occupied” landlord for STRs, she couldn’t be part of the plaintiffs’ action. The town’s STR law is restricted to those who rent their property on a short–term basis and are absent from the residence.

Ms. Weisenberg told the Reporter Tuesday that “the judge accepted the town’s erroneous claim that I remained in my house when I rented, which excluded me from law as owner-occupied.”

Asked if this was a victory for the town, Mr. DeStefano said, “Temporarily.”

When asked for further comment, Ms. D’Arcambal pointed to a letter she wrote to the Reporter published on Aug. 29, which said in part: “Plaintiffs believe that the ‘new’ law is invalid because it violates statutory notice provisions. Nonetheless, we made the business decision to dismiss the lawsuit on the ‘repealed’ law. We are considering all of our options, including commencing a lawsuit challenging the ‘new’ law.”