How other regions can serve as models for Adirondack communities
By Izania Gonzalez
As the Adirondack region deals with a housing shortage, some of the park’s 123,000 residents are more concerned about regulating short-term rentals (STRs), in order to curb growth and/or to bring STRs into line with hotels and other accommodations.
Solutions working elsewhere suggest that licensing and boundaries could help. Santa Fe, New Mexico, has had a short-term rental ordinance since 2002. Its process allows 1,000 licenses to be distributed for residential areas every year and an unlimited number in commercial areas. As of August the city has reached 997 residential permits for the year.
A 2021 amendment to Santa Fe’s law requires a 50-foot buffer between rental properties in residential areas. Jason Sena, supervisor for zoning, code enforcement, and short-term rentals, said Sante Fe’s goal is to “keep neighborhoods, neighborhoods.”
The city witnessed companies buying multiple properties on one block or in one neighborhood and added the amendment.
Using zoning to regulate STRs
Communities in the Adirondacks are taking a similar approach.
The town of Lake George developed an ordinance in 2018 through the zoning department, which according to town officials is unlike many other short-term rental regulations across the country. Dan Barusch, director of planning and zoning, says the vision behind “putting it in zoning was actually regulating where they can be because some communities are regulating how many can exist which is arbitrary.”
Barusch with Doug Frost, the town’s code enforcement officer, and support from the town board produced a law which prohibits short-term rentals in residential areas. Permits are given if the property is located in a commercial or quasi-commercial area only. The law requires rentals to pass an inspection. Also, they must offer appropriate parking and septic capacity for guests. A local emergency contact is necessary.
The nearby town of Queensbury also began regulations in 2018, with an amendment passed this June. The rules restrict the number of vehicles, allowing 1.5 per bedroom. The number of allowable guests is double the bedroom count plus two. Quiet hours run from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. Short-term renting is limited to 120 days a year including a five-day minimum from May 15 to Sept.15.
Recent amendments to the regulations require rental properties to notify properties within 100 feet of the rental property line and include the contact information and a copy of the rules.“It’s to support the good neighbor policy,” said Queensbury Councilmember Tim McNulty.
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Katelyn Moskos is the owner of Northern Living, a vacation home rental agency based in Lake George. Northern Living currently manages 67 properties, 9 of which Moskos owns herself.
Part of Moskos’ concern is with the Queensbury regulation of the number of days allowed. She believes it will encourage rental property owners to only rent during the summer months, diminishing tourism traffic during the winter months, a vital season for the Adirondacks.
Moskos also believes some of the restrictions are overreaching and unfair. “I feel firmly, what’s good for one is good for all,” she said.
She recently received a call from a renter complaining about a neighbor using a jackhammer at 6 a.m. but when she called the town they said quiet times only applied to short-term rentals. “If a neighbor of mine was being loud, I don’t have anyone to turn to, but if my guests are being loud, it’s violating a law.”
Queensbury law also states that rental owners must establish rules that “address prohibition of the following behaviors: fighting, violence, tumultuous or threatening behavior, unreasonable noise, abusive or obscene language or gestures in public.” Moskos believes that restrictions should let the business use its own filtering process. Her business requires potential renters to fill out an application to determine whether they are an appropriate fit.
Vail, Colorado, established short-term rental regulations in 2018 and rental properties are required to pay a sales tax of 4.5%. A portion of the tax goes toward funding affordable housing.
The law states the money will fund “housing and childcare for the tourism-related workforce, including seasonal workers, and for other workers in the community.”
Eleven of the 13 Adirondack-related counties collect bed tax.
Warren County, where Lake George and Queensbury reside, collects a 4% occupancy tax which brought in $2.6 million in 2020, but none is earmarked for housing. According to a county financial report, the full amount was “restricted to fund future costs related to tourism,” as is the same with most bed tax use.
As far as making alterations to the town law, Barusch of Lake George refers to it as “a living breathing document,” and they have plans within the next six months to amend it. McNulty of Queensbury says that future planning will include “regular updates at the town board, and people will get a chance to comment.”
More Adirondack communities are currently in discussions of implementing short-term rental regulations. The Town of North Elba and Village of Lake Placid are in a moratorium, placing a pause on permits to give the town board time to restructure their regulations. Other municipalities in discussions include Old Forge, Fort Ann, Webb, Keene and Saranac Lake.