Tensions grow as community weighs options on updating STR regulations
By Leigh Hornbeck, Times Union
Lake Placid has long been a happy place for the Gajda-Perdon family. Their trips started in the 1970s when there were just two of them, Jo-Ann and George.
Over time, they introduced their three children to Lake Placid, a beautiful and popular spot in the Adirondack Mountains where the 1932 and 1980 winter Olympics were held and high-level athletic competitions continue today.
It’s where the kids, now grown, learned to ski and where the family celebrated special occasions. The Gajdas rented houses and stayed at hotels and motels over the years until they found a house they could afford in 2019. The key to making the purchase affordable was the prospect of income from renting the house out when they’re not using it.
Now, Jo-Ann Gajda-Perdon says she feels “vilified” by her neighbors because she operates a short-term rental.
“We were ready to start renting this year after the COVID pause, but with the moratorium, we’re leery,” she said in a phone call from her primary home in Nutley, N.J.
Establishing limits, rules
The governments of Lake Placid and the Town Board in North Elba, where Lake Placid is located, passed laws and created a permit system in 2020 to govern short-term rentals after five years of discussion. Two years later as the short-term rental business grew across the state and locally, residents complained that renters were rude and noisy. Officials in both the village and town put a moratorium on permits to give themselves time to amend the laws. Both boards have since extended them.
Nuisance calls, which include complaints of loud parties and strewn trash, are the driving force behind the two boards’ move to put stricter restrictions in place, although members of the Adirondack Families Rental Association — a coalition of property owners who own short-term rentals in the area along with service workers whose livelihoods are buoyed by the rental traffic — say the board members lack data to prove the problems from short-term renters are widespread. In a combined meeting of the town and village boards recently, Lake Placid Mayor Art Devlin acknowledged incidents have been hard to quantify because sometimes neighbors call the police, sometimes they call the village office and sometimes the homeowners themselves.
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Fawn Valley, planned housing in Lake Placid. Photo by Mike Lynch
Lake Placid isn’t the only tourist destination facing this dilemma. In Breckenridge, Colo., the town board capped short-term rentals in a controversial decision last month. That followed the action in Avon, Colo., near the ski resort town of Vail, capping permits. Regionally, the town of Lake George invoked six-month moratorium on short-term rental permits Aug. 8 following complaints from residents. The town’s existing law already limits the areas where short-term rentals are allowed.
Over the past six months, officials in North Elba and Lake Placid sharpened definitions and distinguished between hosted and unhosted rentals. At a hosted rental, the property owner or an operator is on site and the boards seem unlikely to curtail permits for that type of use. Owners of unhosted rentals in Lake Placid will be required to have a caretaker who can get to the property within 30 minutes; in the town the deadline will be an hour. There are currently approximately 200 short-term rental permits in the town and village combined. There has been discussion of a cap on permits, perhaps 240 total, but it’s not clear if the cap will make it into the final legislation.
Elected officials are still debating revisions to the law. Those revisions will likely result include the end of unhosted rental permits in residential areas. Owners who already hold permits will be able to keep them, but once the property changes hands, the permit ends. Other proposed changes switch penalties for violating the local law around short-term rentals from criminal to civil, which can make it easier to prosecute. The village board will also create a compliance monitor position to respond to residents’ complaints concerning short-term rentals. There is no limit on short-term rentals in Lake Placid’s village center.
Jackie Kelly, a village trustee, said the village and town boards are striving for compatibility, noting resort communities have always had rentals of this type.
“We’re trying to fix the perception short-term rental owners have that they’re being vilified, and the perception from residents their community is being destroyed,” Kelly said. “School enrollment is declining and everyone is placing the blame on each other.”
‘Not far enough’
Jason Leon, a homeowner in Lake Placid and a teacher at the local public school since 2008, said the emphasis on compliance and enforcement is just a symptom of what’s going on and called the continued conversation about it a distraction from the area’s affordable housing problem. When investors buy houses to use as short-term rentals, there are fewer houses for local people looking for long-term rentals and homes to buy and live in as their primary residence. Leon is disappointed in the proposed changes in the law and said the halt on unhosted permits in residential districts is the only change with any teeth – but it doesn’t go far enough.
Leon agreed the search for affordable housing has long been difficult throughout the Adirondacks but said the earning potential and the ease with which property owners can now rent rooms through platforms like Airbnb and VRBO has accelerated the land grab.
“People who won’t admit short-term rentals have at least an effect on housing stock are gaslighting. They only care about their own interests,” Leon said.
Embracing the boom
Ali Miller, a lifelong resident of Lake Placid, sees it differently. Miller, 54, has been cleaning houses since the 1980s. She’s also worked at hotels, hung wallpaper, done painting jobs, been a babysitter, a pet sitter and worked as a bartender. The increase in the number of short-term rentals provided her enough work so, for the first time in her life, she works just one job. In 2019, she founded Done!, a house cleaning business. She has more work than she can handle on word-of-mouth alone.
Miller has been a long-term renter in Lake Placid for 19 years. She inherited a piece of land and hopes to build a house on it someday.
“Short-term rentals don’t take away from long-term rentals. It’s always been hard to find an apartment in Lake Placid. I don’t think one has anything to do with the other. The underlying issue is how hard it is to make enough money to live,” Miller said. “The people who buy second homes here aren’t going to have long-term renters because they use the house, too.”
A cooling off period?
Nick Politi, a real estate broker with Merrill Thomas Real Estate, said he has noticed a change in the attitudes from buyers since the moratorium started in 2020. Prospective buyers who planned to buy and use the house as a short-term rental part of the time lost interest when they learned they might not be able to going forward. Politi has a front seat to elected officials’ discussions, his wife, Emily Kilburn Politi, is a North Elba councilwoman.
People next door to Lake Placid are watching, too. Tim Follos, who was elected to the Town Board in neighboring Wilmington (home of Whiteface Mountain) last fall and took office in January, said he is unhappy with the town’s current ordinance because it isn’t strong enough. It calls for permits, but the town hasn’t issued any yet.
The town has a population of 1,300 and 635 housing units. More than 140 of them are short-term rentals. In the spring of 2019, there were 100. Follos said it is inappropriate to have businesses in neighborhoods. Any other business — a tavern, a mechanic — would need a variance to open in a residential neighborhood. The same should be true for short term rentals, Follos said.
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Living in a place with lots of short-term rentals and a couple right across the street from me I can agree that some renters are noisy and nuisances, and they’ve resulted in the loss of about 6 year-round apartment rentals on my one block. Back in the day we knew all of our neighbors–not any more. I know several young people who have struggled to find longterm places to live, and friends who are retiring are moving away because they can sell for huge sums and purchase elsewhere for half or less. On the other hand, knowing the landlords they are making lots of money on the short-term rentals and since they are local that contributes to the local economy. My feelings are definitely mixed on this issue.
LeRoy Hogan says
I prefer the nearby KOA campground formerly known as North Pole Resorts.
Dan X says
That’s quite a stretch in assuming the landlords “contribute to the local economy.” Do you have any evidence they spend the money made on STR’s in LP? Those STR landlords are profiting off the investments and care and maintenance made by those who actually life there full time. It’s a form of exploitation of the full-time owners/residents.
I understand the concerns of people about STRs. And it is true that STR owners are being vilified. Yes, some are out of region folks with no connection to the community. But many are not. And they provided a needed service for people who can’t afford $250+ a night at the big hotels. The real issue is that there just isn’t enough housing. Zoning regulations often cause this by giving preference to single family homes – rather than density – and by imposing onerous parking regulations that are not really needed. People who work in service jobs to feed and sell to the tourists do not all need a single family home, but they do not somewhere to stay. Long-term renters are looked down upon as transients and vagabonds but I have been renting for 20 years and I spent most of my free time volunteering in my community. I am hardly the only one.
Lake Placid needs tourists, and MOST people are not attracted to hotels charging the ridiculous prices they do up here. It shouldn’t cost a thousand bucks for a long weekend up here. Many locals own str properties….it’s not just out of towners, and locals need the extra income to afford ever increasing living costs. We can blame str’s for the housing crises but the reality is, almost all of the country suffered crazy inflation with housing over the past few years. And yes, some properties have had loud short term renters but guess what? Long term renters and home owners can be bad neighbors too. Limiting more affordable vacation options will decrease tourist revenue, it will hurt locals. You want to help with affordable housing? Lower taxes!!!! Stop with the crazy assessment increases that are feeding the very trends people say are killing the community.
Funnily enough, these days STR are more expensive than hotels, especially for a weekend long stay. So your point is irrelevant…
carol girardin says
It is not irrelevant. If 3 couples want to spend the week skiing they all chip in and spend time with each other. They can cook their meals and save. Many families rent when there is a wedding for a family member. The rowdies and trouble makers are off their lists to rent again.
I agree with your comment regarding hotel prices. We USED to visit Lake Placid regularly but no more. Even then we would visit during the weekdays as the hotel rates were really ridiculous on the weekends especially if a special event was taking place.
Dan X says
Hotel rates are rising across the country, not just LP. That’s because more people are traveling and labor costs have skyrocketed. If you can’t afford it then you’ll have to move on. I can’t afford Nantucket, that doesn’t mean I’m going to try to gather 10 friends to split the cost of jamming into someone’s LTR studio apartment because I “just have to” vacation there. Nonsense.
carol girardin says
my comment is above as a reply to the previous comment
Lake Placid could end up cannibalizing themselves with this, pushing potential purchasers and tourists away – resulting in decreased revenue for the town. I’d think about this long and hard before instituting any rules that could be detrimental to the Lake Placid economy in the long-term.
One thing there is no question about is the fact that short-term rentals reduce the number of available longterm rentals. It is not vilifying anyone to point this out. There is abundant evidence that Lake Placid has a severe housing shortage for working people that are needed to staff the restaurants, hotels, shops, etc. that allow the town to thrive. Individual property owners are the main beneficiaries of short-term rentals, but there are losers too. Resort communities, like Lake Placid, will eventually have to rezone and pass other regulations to allow higher rise apartment buildings and other dense housing or face increasing worker shortages.
You will and are doing the same thing other resort towns do. You’re pushing locals out. Then you have no one to work. So what if it helps ONE particular job. Im in the service industry. And finding workers started getting worse before covid. There’s no where to live. She’s wrong. It is getting worse and worse. You’re thinking about the quick buck and not the future. Everyones already understaffed. Even the Iron Mans are harder. You have no one. You think the winter games coming up will work? You guys only care about the now and the people who keep snagging these short rentals (a lot of the same real estate agents and other buyers) are ruining these towns futures? YOU WILL LOSE ANY HEALTHY WORK FORCE! And then what? Its already getting worse. Noisy tourists aren’t the big problem.
You are absolutely correct!! Spoken as an Adirondack native of 60+ years that started my working years in the service industry.
I believe the situation will eventually self-correct. We’ve been vacationing in Lake Placid for many years and it has gotten to the point where it has outpriced itself. For what I spend in LP this past summer for 5 days, I could have gone to the Caribbean (seriously), and will be exploring elsewhere next year. It’s no longer a reasonably priced get away. Unless the market corrects, it won’t be so crowded anymore, and housing and rooms will open up.
Nathan Jeffery says
I feel it’s less of a noise and rowdiness issue. The greater concern is that it’s not affordable for year round residents to live here due to short term rentals. This inturn impacts the regions available workforce as a double negative. We are happy to call anyone and everyone neighbor who are dedicated to year round residence! I fear we are headed for what So Cal is experiencing with whole towns with no true residents all bought and owned by short term rental agencies. Scarry times!
agreed. Investment companies like Black Rock, BSH, Vanguard etc. or probably worse- foreign investment.
How bad is the housing problem? I just learned of a situation with someone who was living (renting) and working in LP. On September 1, 2022, this person was given 30 day notice by their landlord because the landlord wants to turn the rental unit into an STR. Is this good for an already difficult rental housing market? This is not a statement in favor or against STR‘s. It’s a fact, it occurred, and it’s just one example of shrinking availability of housing in the area.
This is why zoning needs to be put in place banning all STR. Residential neighborhoods and hotels are zoned to existing in completely separate areas for good reasons.
Jack Carney says
I agree with Mr. Leon, Lake Placid resident interviewed for this article, that this pro-con STR debate serves as a distraction from the underlying and key issue, the lack of rentsl housing for individuals who wish to live in the Adks full-time. The solution — large State & Federal housing grants thst would allow local communities to purchase available land and existing housing for construction/conversion by private contractors of/into ling-term rental housing. Undoubtedly a controversial suggestion in a pro-market environment but a discussion well-worth having to help us get beyond the predictable ideological constraints.
Jack makes a good point. The market maximizes profits, and eventually will self-correct to address the need for workers, but not after much dispruption to communities. The market alone does not produce good places to live. Interim government support for long-term rental units is a viable option. And note, this issue is not just in LP but throughout the Adirondacks, and the country as well.
LeRoy Hogan says
Does anyone know the term “commute” in the great white north?
Seriously??? We commute for EVERYTHING! Affordable groceries, health care, a good take out order, everyday needs. Where are YOU from???
Any of you folks in favor of STR, including those who are converting their one or multi-family housing to this format, I bet you wouldn’t want to live next to such places! Having had the misfortune of living next to a NYC-based absentee owner who exploited my very nice neighborhood by renting his large house on AirBNB, I can without hesitation declare that such properties are major nuisances. These are essentially nothing more than unregulated “stealth” hotels, operating in violation of zoning and other laws. I read all the comments here and am quite surprised at the number of people defending this ridiculous practice. Most people who take these “STR’s” are groups of multiple families, who have several dogs in tow, and who otherwise would not be able to afford or even be accepted into conventional, quality hotels. The fact is, there is no shortage of hotel rooms. There is however a shortage of hotel rooms that will allow over-occupancy in a single room so the cheapskate groups can avoid paying the fair rate. The vast majority of these situations seem also to be dog-related. I know there are many people who are obsessed with these creatures and insensibly hold them in higher regard than human beings, but sadly many owners do not train or control their animals. For several weeks in a row this past summer, my “neighbor” rented to groups of 2-3 large families (all packed into a single family house), with 2-4 dogs, which spent days and nights howling and barking incessantly. During the evening hours, until 2 or 3 am when they eventually passed out drunk, the “adult” renters spent most of their time getting drunkenly blitzed in the back yard, shouting, fighting, laughing, playing loud music, shooting fireworks, etc. with total disregard for the people who actually LIVE in the neighborhood and weren’t on vacation. This behavior would not be tolerated at a proper hotel, and these fools know it, hence the AirBNB. Bottom line, the majority of STR customers are using these properties in a manner that they know would never be acceptable at a hotel, due to the large number of persons jamming into the house, dogs, drunken “partying” and so on. The Town is right to review their zoning laws in this matter, if they have any sense at all, they will ban ALL short-term rentals, as many municipalities across the country are doing now after wising up from countless bad experiences and resident complaints. It’s bad for everyone, except the slumlord types who are exploiting their nice neighborhoods, which were never designed for this purpose, for short term profit. Just because something CAN be done doesn’t mean it SHOULD be done. The best guarantee for long term growth and a quality community is strictly enforced zoning, and prohibitions on idiotic practices like STR. Would Lake Place allow someone to install a trailer home on a vacant lot downtown? If not, it’s because of zoning. Zoning works, and should be enforced, for the welfare of ALL the permanent residents and visitors. You homeowners who have invested in LP and think STR are a good thing will be in for a big surprise someday if this continues to expand and your whole neighborhood gets converted. Just look to Saratoga Springs as an example of the mayhem you can come to expect on your street in a few years. Thank you.
I am curious, are most of these STR owned by individuals or by investment companies like Black Rock/BSH/Vanguard etc? Any data on that? And Dan, I feel for you and understand where you are coming from. There has to be a balance, but how?
STRs in Lake George/Diamond Point are supposedly by permit with only certain areas allowed, but there is ZERO enforcement and it disrupts life on my cul-de-sac when a house that should be a single family home is filled with up to 11 cars packed with “guests” who have no respect for those who do live here year round. From noise, light pollution, speeding cars on a 20mph street to higher home prices that drive up property taxes this has to stop.
I’m not sure why Jason Leon thinks that private property owners should be stuck subsidizing the affordability of housing for other people. This is exactly what happens when government regulations (and potentially new taxes) limit who you sell your house to, and therefore depresses the price of it.