As 4th of July weekend approaches, the summer 2016 real estate market has officially commenced, with many customers scurrying to secure a last minute rental.
At Tuesday’s Town Board meeting, the topic of short term rentals was again discussed. Town Supervisor Jim Dougherty said “AirBnb’s are an increasing phenomenon on Shelter Island. There are good sides and bad sides to this unfolding development. I want to make everyone aware that we the Town Board is going to move very slowly and deliberately, not slowly to a fault, but we want to do something that is good, rather than something that’s fast…with this very, very complex subject.”
Town Attorney Laury Dowd noted that the Town Code already regulates the operation of bed and breakfasts, and read aloud the initial draft of the proposed law. “Any one family dwelling rented for less than 14 consecutive days shall also be deemed a B&B and must comply with the provisions of the B&B regulations.” And that advertising a B&B “would be prohibited unless they have the proper license which is required for a B&B with hefty fines for violating.” Town Councilwoman Chris Lewis added that “the best part is to insist that it be owner occupied.”
Town Councilman Jim Colligan said that he had heard from many people who “do rent and rent carefully, sometimes to the same people,” and “never have complaints from neighbors,” but “it takes a handful of people to sour the pot,” especially for the “people who live immediately next door, putting people through a mini hell,” adding that “making people on AirBnb conform is not a bad thing.”
Town Councilman Paul Shepherd said “I’d rather have [a regulation] that is perhaps marginally flawed in some way or another than nothing.”
Dougherty said that the proposed regulation will be posted on the Town website, and then a public hearing will be scheduled. He spoke with Larry Cantwell, the Town Supervisor of East Hampton regarding the new rental regulation requiring that a homeowner seeking to rent obtain a license. Cantwell, Dougherty continued, “said that from both sides of the coin the law seems to be working satisfactorily, so it’s something we should consider. It is a problem but we have to be aware of the economic realities on the island as well.”
An article in the 6/29/16 New York Times described ongoing problems with AirBnb and regulations in San Francisco, where the company is based, and in New York City.
On top of discussions concerning how AirBnb and home sharing has an adverse affect on quality of life and housing, AirBnb faces a class action discrimination lawsuit. According to a New York Times article on 6/19/16, the chief plaintiff claims AirBnb violated civil rights that forbid housing discrimination when a host on the service denied him accommodation last year because of his race.
On the home sale front, inventory for properties in the less than $1M range is limited, and properties listed between $1M and $1.5M are experiencing more activity.
Recently I wrote about being mindful of turtles crossing the road. This week I spoke with Karen Testa of Turtle Rescue in Jamesport to check on two injured turtles. She told me that a high percentage of wounded turtles in their care come from Shelter Island, with only two Shelter Island individuals currently listed as transport volunteers. “This looks like a war zone,” she said, adding that there is a high mortality rate because slow moving turtles are “like sitting ducks” for speeding cars. One of the turtles from Shelter Island I was inquiring about died. The other, which I found on Middle Road in Riverhead upside down, shell locked up, is slowly recovering, and if all goes well, may be returned to the wild in 2016.
This Independence Day, enjoy all that Shelter Island has to offer, our community, natural surroundings and wildlife!