This week, the Reporter brings you some of the top stories of 2019.
For three years — yes, the short-term rental (STR) debate has been at the forefront of town government debate that long — both sides of the issue have staked out the claim that they are fighting for the “soul” of Shelter Island.
One side, which wants limited or no regulations on owners renting their property for short-term stays when they’re absent, say that this has been a time-honored Island tradition for homeowners to meet their mortgages and other expenses so they can stay on the Island. They say the tradition of renting to couples or families harms no one, and allowing an STR only once in a 14-day period hurts them and could force them to move.
Those in favor of STR regulation say that too many rentals turn residences into transient party houses and peaceful Island neighborhoods have become places where neighbors don’t know their neighbors, and the character of the Island is changed.
Regulations are on the books, after bitter discussions that descended into ad hominem attacks and at least one police report for threatening behavior.
Registration of STRs and enforcement has been slow and complicated as the town and residents work out solutions.
The courts have become involved, due to suits filed by anti-STR regulations proponents.
A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit in September brought by several Shelter Island women against the town. Both parties had agreed to the dismissal.
And last month, the town again faced a lawsuit over STRs, this time in state court, similar to one that was dismissed from the federal bench. The claims are similar in both suits, with the defendants maintaining that the town had violated 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.
With a new administration taking over next week, one of the priorities will be to finally come to some solution of the issue that has become a flash point since the spring of 2016.