Board feels rift on rental guidelines
Village officials are poised to vote on new legislation related to short-term rentals later this month. The code change would bar short-term rentals less than 16 days during the season, which has been defined as May 1 to Oct. 1.
At the year’s first work session Monday night, preliminary public comment and further discussion among the trustees shows that a sensible truce may be just out of reach.
Though the board still agrees that rental registration and home inspection are necessary, there was some debate about the proposed minimum of 16 days to rent in the village from May to October. To get a consensus before drafting the code, village attorney David Moran asked board members where they stood on the issue. “Do you want to address the 16-days-or-less or keep that in?” he asked, acknowledging a concern deputy mayor Joe Gagliano brought up earlier in the meeting. “I do,” trustee Mike Ferrigno said. “I’m happy with it,” trustee Bob Rosenberg added. “That’s two, and I know [mayor Ray Fell] is happy with it. That would be three,” Moran said.
Both Gagliano and trustee Steve Mackin indicated at the work session that they were unsure whether or not they agreed with the 16-day minimum for rentals in the high season.
The board generally agreed that the season should be defined as May 15 to Sept. 15, shortened to take some burden off of residents who want to rent their home.
Facing a public hearing at the business meeting on Jan. 22, the proposed change is already facing some opposition from residents. Pam Hannon, who attended the work session, noted that the code would have a direct negative impact on her large family. “I’m one of seven children who grew up in Bellport ... we all have children and grandchildren. This month I’m expecting my 86th member to my family,” she explained.
“Do they sleep in the community center when they’re visiting?” Gagliano joked.
That brought Hannon to this very point: when family members visit, usually during the summer, there’s limited space between her 4-bedroom home and her sister’s 3-bedroom in East Patchogue. “Our house was bursting at the seams,” she said of a family reunion last summer. One of her tech-savvy nieces found a cottage for rent in the village, freeing up some space. “[My family] could not have come to visit if they had to rent for 16 or more days,” Hannon said. “Some of us are very lucky, maybe we have summers off, and some of us are self-employed and dictate how many weeks vacation we get every year. But most people get two weeks. If they’re lucky, they get three.”
She noted that it was unfair and discriminatory to working people, who would either have to spend an entire year’s vacation renting in Bellport or pay for 16 days but only stay for a week.
“Unless there is a grave issue with short-term rentals with abuse from the tenant and landlord,” Hannon said, interjected by Ferrigno. “Pam, there is. That’s why we’re doing this,” he said.
Fell noted that complaints of noise and parties were directed to him. “You don’t get the calls. At 12 o’clock at night, my phone rings, not yours,” he said. “And I don’t want to deal with it.”
Rosenberg said Hannon’s concerns were legitimate. “I understand that what you’re talking about is collateral damage to what [the board] is doing,” he said.
Fell explained further that the proposed 16-day minimum wasn’t an arbitrary number, but would serve to limit the number of times a property could be rented per month. “People were concerned about strangers coming and going so frequently,” Fell said about the high turnover rate.
Another option was an 8-day minimum, but the majority of the board did not appear to budge on the 16 days. It was unclear whether Gagliano and Mackin would vote in favor of the measure. In a phone call after the work session, Gagliano said that he would await public commentary during the hearing on the 22nd. “We’re breaking ground, but I don’t have a solid position. I know, I’m a little slow on these things. But I’d rather fact-find before voting.”
Mackin declined to comment by press time.
Still, it’s likely the code change would be approved, with a three-vote majority. The public still has an opportunity to comment on the proposal at the board meeting on Monday, Jan. 22 at 7 p.m.
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