The Putnam Valley town board held a second public hearing this week on its proposal to regulate short-term rentals (STRs), commonly associated with Airbnb and VRBO listings. The board made some revisions to its original resolution, however the new proposal was only available in printed copies to those who came to the meeting and was still not available on the town board website as of this posting. The revised resolution is embedded below:
At the start of the hearing, Supervisor Jacqueline Annabi announced that the board had decided not to impose an initial cap on the number of short-term rental permits to be issued, addressing a concern that was frequently cited at the first public hearing. She added that the board maintained the right to impose one in the future, and the revised proposal indicates that such an action would be accomplished by resolution, which would not require a public hearing. Supervisor Annabi explained that that would enable the town to move more quickly if it perceived a cap was needed, rather than having to undergo the slower process of holding public hearings.
The new proposal also creates a process for those who are already hosting STRs. Homeowners who can demonstrate that they have been renting their homes for less than 30 days during this calendar year will be given three months after the proposed resolution becomes law to continue renting their homes while applying for their STR permit. The new resolution clarifies that permits will be valid for three years, subject to properties passing annual fire and safety inspections.
About twenty people attended the hearing, which lasted for nearly two hours. Half of them offered their views of the proposed regulation, with many revisiting themes from the first public hearing. Once again, the views divided along two clear lines: those who feel that the increase in short-term visitors is harming the quality of life of the community and want even more stringent regulations, and those who feel that the proposed regulation would impose a heavy and unnecessary burden, particularly on those who rely on STR income for their financial well-being.
The suggestions for additional ways to regulate STRs included requiring that only those who have lived in Putnam Valley for at least five years should be eligible for STR permits; requiring that septic tanks be pumped out every three years instead of the current five-year requirement; hiring an enforcement officer to ensure that town beaches are not used by STR visitors; and requiring STR homeowners to provide fencing and shrubs around their property lines. Pleas were also made for the town board to set a cap now, and especially to set a limit on the number of STRs allowed in lake communities, where they are most prevalent and where the ecosystem is considered most vulnerable.
Those who objected to the proposed regulation felt that the problems associated with STR visitors were being exaggerated; that noise and nuisance issues are more often attributable to full-time residents who don't live in fear of getting a bad review on Airbnb; and that there are already sufficient laws on the books to address quality-of-life concerns. Fears were also expressed about potential code violations that might be uncovered during inspections of STR homes, which could force homeowners to make expensive, even prohibitive, modifications in order to continue renting.
While the tone of the meeting remained civil throughout, there was a clear difference of opinion about how short-term visitors are viewed. Those seeking greater regulation often referred to the renters with whom they associate problems as 'transients'. By contrast, several homeowners who oppose this regulatory push attributed their passion for Putnam Valley to having first discovered the town through an Airbnb rental. Now that they are hosts, they say they frequently develop long-lasting friendships with their renters, and decried the derogatory connotation of the term 'transient'.
There was no indication that the four town board members who attended the meeting were swayed by the new comments offered at the hearing. (Ralph Smith was absent.) At the conclusion of the hearing, Supervisor Annabi said that if no further revisions were made, the board intended to vote on the resolution at its next monthly meeting, scheduled for September 20th.
Once the proposed regulation becomes law, homeowners will have to pay a fee to obtain STR permits, renewable every three years, as well as annual fees for fire and safety inspections. No details were given at the hearing about how much those fees would be.
There was also no mention at the meeting or in the revised resolution of the occupancy tax that the town board had previously sought permission from the state to impose on short-term renters. However, on June 8th, the New York State Senate and Assembly passed bills authorizing the town of Putnam Valley to collect up to a 2% occupancy tax from the owner of "the room for hire in the tourist home, inn, club, hotel, motel or other similar place of public accommodation." That bill has not yet been signed by Governor Kathy Hochul.
If you have ideas for future stories or want to provide feedback, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.