By Jamie Organski
The Town of Webb adopted legislation during its October town board meeting, taking an initial step in regulating short-term rentals (STRs) after years of draft laws, revisions, and public hearings.
The local law, “Short-Term Residential Rental Law of the Town of Webb” was adopted on Oct. 11, and filed with the state the next day. The most recent public hearing regarding the draft STR law was held on July 14.
The discussion began at a town level in January of 2019 as Webb town board members expressed concern about the impact the rise in STRs would have on its communities. Following two emotionally-charged hearings surrounding an initial draft in the spring of 2021, the town board went back to the drawing board, consulted their legal counsel and edited the document significantly, coming up with more than 10 drafts in over a year.
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What it means
Purpose of the law: “It is the intent of the Town Board, by enacting this Local Law, to ensure that properties that host short-term residential rentals meet the same standards as private residential homes as to life safety and health as codified in the NYS Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code, protection of the environment and public sanitation through NYS Department of Health Appendix 75A, protection of the general public health, safety and welfare through the Property Maintenance Code and all other applicable laws, rules and regulations.”
Regulations in a nutshell: Properties must abide by town codes, current state fire safety standards, ensure septic systems meet requirements, provide sufficient lawful parking for the number of occupants, ensure the maximum allowable occupancy rate (based on the New York State Fire Prevention and Building Code and Property Maintenance Code) is not exceeded, a representative must be listed to respond to complaints/issues, and permits must be posted.
A permit will be required for the following properties: “Any dwelling that is rented, leased or occupied by a person/people other than the owner and/or his or her family for any period of time more than fourteen (14) cumulative days in a calendar year and less than six (6) consecutive months will need a current rental permit issued by the code enforcement officer.”
A permit is valid for 2 years from date of issue. Permit fees are $800 (400 per year) for any rental unit comprised of one to three bedrooms and $1,600 ($800 per year) for a rental unit comprised of four or more bedrooms.
How it will work
“The owner shall designate a property representative who shall be immediately available, for the purpose of: (1) responding within a reasonable time under the circumstances, but in no case later than twenty-four (24) hours after notification to complaints regarding the use or conduct of occupants of the rental property and taking remedial action to resolve any such complaints in a reasonable length of time; (2) the name, address, and telephone number of the owner and the property representative shall be kept on file with the Code Enforcement Officer at all times.”
The local law is currently in place. STR owners are asked to submit permit applications for their properties by January 1, 2023. Permits will be issued by the Town of Webb Code Enforcement Officer as quickly as possible, according to Town of Webb Councilwoman Barbara Green.
The first offense amounts to a fine not more than $350. Any second violation within a period of twelve months immediately succeeding a prior violation shall be deemed a violation and shall be punishable by a fine $350 to $700. Any third violation will mean a fine between $700 and $1,000. Following a third violation, “the Code Enforcement Officer may administratively suspend any current short-term rental permit until full compliance is demonstrated (and after passage of one year from the date of such violation.)”
Town of Webb Code Enforcement Office staff will oversee enforcement, and have added a full-time employee to its team.
What people are saying:
Town of Webb Supervisor Bonnie Baker said she is excited to see the STR law move forward after more than ten revisions to the document.
“Our next step is trying to pinpoint exactly how many rentals we have here,” Baker said. “We are looking into a few software companies to help us with that. We are also in the process of updating zoning which the town has been working on for years.”
Old Forge resident Mary Brophy-Moore said she has reviewed revision after revision of the town’s proposed draft STR law over the past couple years.
“[The revisions] keep getting watered down as far as protection for the community,” Brophy-Moore said. “[It will] need more teeth to make a difference.”
Brophy-Moore believes zoning is the answer to limiting the spread of STRs in residential neighborhoods.
“[I believe we should] allow no further STRs in those areas, for those who are already doing it, give them four years to stop doing it. Buying properties for the sole purpose of renting them out, running them as a business, has no business being in these neighborhoods.”
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Town of Webb Councilwoman Barbara Green said a lot of changes were made to the STR draft law to make it more palatable and that many people were receptive to the law at the final public hearing.
“We’ve had complaints that the fees are too much and we’ve also had complaints that the fees are not enough,” Green said. “People have been asking how the town board came up with the numbers and where the money is going.”
The bottom line is the law was done to help regulate the health, safety and welfare of the community and visitors, Green continued.
“There will still be strangers in [people’s] neighborhoods, but there may be 12 instead of 30,” Green said. “We are doing double duty on some of these [regulations] that already exist. A lot of these places are run by corporations. Now, a [contact] person needs to be listed on the registration application [to respond to complaints].”
Steve Hoepfl, owner/operator of Christy’s Motel in Old Forge, said he has been following this issue since 2018. Hoepfl said he believes stricter laws need to be enacted, and the law should go to a public vote, as many residents may be hesitant to speak out at a public hearing for fear of repercussions in terms of their employment or living situation.
“The fine for a first offense is $350 and people are renting out their homes for over $2,000 a week,” Hoepfl said.
Hoepfl pointed out that the Town of Webb’s Comprehensive Master Plan, adopted in July of 2019, includes guidelines that warn against an increase in STRs, and how it would deplete the character of the community. A few of these guidelines, such as ensuring long-term rentals aren’t converted to short-term rentals, are not currently being followed, Hoepfl continued.
Hoepfl pointed out a loophole in the town’s STR law that could allow some owners to get out of needing a permit.
“It seems to me, a STR owner could rent out their property every weekend in the summer, and wouldn’t need to apply for a permit and they wouldn’t be subject to inspections,” Hoepfl said.
More information: The Town of Webb STR law may be viewed in full here.
Share your thoughts: How does Webb’s law fit in line with what other Adirondack communities may be doing or considering? Does it strike a balance or not go far enough? Weigh in using the comments section below and/or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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