Communities need to take steps in regulating short-term rentals

old forge short-term rentals
Photos from around Old Forge show plenty of “for rent” signs but the vast majority are advertising short-term, vacation rentals. Photos by Jamie Organski

By Barbara Green

Property rentals have always occurred in the Adirondacks. The Town of Webb has welcomed visitors at inns, hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, and private homes throughout our history.

I’ve read that “Adirondackers” aren’t just the people who live here year ’round, but are also the seasonal workers, the visitors, and the second homeowners. Together, we make up the legion of people who love the Adirondacks. So while we all have opportunity to capitalize on where we live, I believe we have an obligation to set parameters to help protect not only our environment, but the communities within which we live and recreate.

The great success of online rental platforms like Airbnb has boosted home rentals beyond anyone’s expectations. Add the effects of Covid-19 and the exodus from cities,  the number of people pouring into our great outdoors has grown exponentially. The sale of  homes has exploded right along with it. Home prices have exceeded the income levels of residents. Homes that were long-term rentals are being changed over to the more lucrative short-term rental business. The impact from this is that we are seeing families have to move out of town, which in turn takes children from our schools and workers from our businesses.

RELATED: Short-term rental regulations single out certain homeowners

While some people use their homes part time and then rent to offset costs, others have purchased with the sole intent of operating a short-term rental business.

That said, yes, I believe that communities need to take steps in regulating rentals of private homes for short-term use.

The Town of Webb has had very effective zoning in place for decades. Business types and locations allowed, set backs from roads, waterfront, and neighboring properties, proper distance between wells and septic systems, density restrictions, lighting and signage are just some of the regulated items in our zoning.

These regulations are in place to provide guidelines to promote safe and attractive communities, as well as preserving neighbor relationships. They also allow the Codes Office to deal with the occasional “bad actor.”

Drawing revenue from a home by way of short-term rentals creates a business use. Other in-home business uses are regulated by our zoning to be certain that said business doesn’t negatively impact the neighborhood. It can establish of hours of operation, noise levels, parking, signage, etc.

Webb began the process of researching STR regulations in 2019. After two years of hearing discussion about it at Local Government Days held in Lake Placid, a committee was formed consisting of the Codes Officer, two council members, a rental business owner and a motel owner. We read up on information from across the nation, and regionally on existing regulations. We pieced together a draft, and then edited multiple times to condense, sent it to our lawyer for review and reached a starting point for public consideration. A public hearing was held over the course of two days in May and June, both in person and via Zoom.

The committee reconvened after hearing a ton of feedback, both for and against the proposed regulations. The next step will be a meeting between the town board and our attorney’s office to discuss how we move forward.

With the concerns that I have heard voiced as a Town of Webb Councilwoman, I believe that we are on the right track toward trying to fairly regulate the use of homes as short term rental properties for the safety and assurance of their guests, and also for the peace and contentment of the residents of our communities.

As a side note, we also continue to work toward housing solutions in Webb. I don’t think any of us believe that short term rental regulations will bring back affordable housing, but it certainly played a part in creating the void of housing stock.

— Barbara Green has lived in Webb for over 40 years. She is a retired small business owner, has served on the Planning Board and currently serves on the Webb Town Board, and operates Adirondack Green House Basketry.

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  1. steve beach says

    Many communities from the Canadian border to Key West have tried to regulate short term rentals with mixed results. The two groups most negatively impacted by short term rentals are the neighborhoods where the rental is located and the owners of hotels, motels and cabin colonies. Hotel owners operate a legitimate business that pay property taxes that reflect the value of their commercial property. At the least STR’s should be required to register with the local government as an STR and pay a fee that would fund an inspection by local codes and the fire district. They should pay any bed tax that legitimate hotels are paying. Substantial liability insurance should be required to insure that neighbors and the community have a recourse if unruly guests cause damage. Many STR’s are owned by groups of investers, even hedge funds, and not individuals trying to cover their costs. I would not be surprised if there are STR’s in Old Forge owned by an LLC.


    The only solution is to provide additional housing units – read apartment or town home complexes and/or increase property taxes for homes that are owner occupied less than X days/year. Using the increased property taxes to help developers construct housing.

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