Friday, 01 March 2024 11:37

Proposed Short-Term Rental Regulations Spark Controversy

Proposed Short-Term Rental Regulations Spark Controversy

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Proposed short-term rental regulations have sparked debate among Saratoga homeowners, and resulted in a feisty public hearing at the February 20 Saratoga Springs City Council meeting.

Prior to the public hearing, Commissioner of Accounts Dillon Moran explained his proposed regulations of short-term rentals to a vocal audience. According to Moran, more than 1,200 of the city’s 9,800 residential properties are currently functioning as short-term rentals. “We are creating the ability to license your home to rent it,” Moran said. “We are enabling this activity legally for the first time in our community’s history.”

Moran said that currently, any rental under 28 days is not allowed, and commercial activity inside a residence is a violation of zoning laws. “It’s not allowed right now,” Moran said. “This is simply the facts. This is not my opinion. This is the position of the city.”

Moran said that short-term rental laws have not been enforced due to technological limitations. He also said that if the city did not regulate its own short-term rentals, the state government would do it instead. “We’re creating a city-wide registry of rental units because the state is going to pass a law requiring it,” Moran said.

Moran called houses that are used solely as rental properties “a blight on the neighborhood.” Shortly after, members of the audience shouted back at Moran, causing Mayor John Safford to admonish them. “Listen, we’re going to be here all night if you keep this up,” Mayor Safford told the crowd.

Moran’s plan would require property owners to pay $1,000 per dwelling unit for a two-year permit. Owners would also need to have a local emergency contact, fire extinguisher, carbon monoxide smoke detector, emergency egress plan, and insurance. The tentative start date of these regulations would be July 1, with a 60-day phase-in period. The proposal will not affect this year’s Belmont and track season rentals. 

After Moran laid out his plan, the floor was open to public comments. Skeptics of the plan who voiced their thoughts ranged from Airbnb hosts to homeowners who rent out their houses for only a few days each year. Moran’s proposal was criticized for its $1,000 licensing fee, relatively quick implementation, loss of money from renters who would stay outside city limits, and fireplace maintenance requirements.

Lori Leman from Saratoga Realty Associates said she received a lot of feedback from her clients when she sent Moran’s proposal to them. “To most of us, it seems this is a tremendous overreach in both depth and breadth,” Leman said.

“We have a mosquito problem and it looks like we ordered a bunch of B-29s with napalm to extinguish them,” said Joe Conlon. 

Anna Smith, a mortgage broker and homeowner, said that “Saratoga was not affordable before Airbnb existed, was it? It won’t be affordable once they legislate a lot of short term rentals out.”

Public commenters more supportive of the plan said that homes used solely as short-term rentals were driving up housing costs, hurting the quality of neighborhoods, and depriving families of houses. One woman called Airbnb rentals “unhosted money machines that don’t belong in our neighborhoods.”

After public comments concluded, Moran said he would “address some of the comments that you’ve made. Frankly, I don’t think we’re very far apart.” This provoked laughter from some attendees. “Again, the answer is not going to be no regulation, and the reality is the state is going to regulate this,” Moran said. “So the question is, do we want the state telling us what to do or do we want to determine it ourselves?”

As the proceedings drew to a close, a man from the audience yelled at Moran, saying “We don’t have to justify our lives to you, it’s the opposite. We don’t work for you, you work for us!”

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