By Judy Garrison

After a quickly-dispensed-with Public Hearing and a couple of minor subdivision matters, the Planning Board, joined by County Planner Kristin Schneider, discussed the topic of regulating transient rentals. These rentals are typically through Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO, and there are many operating currently throughout the Town of Andes. Copies of Local Law No. 1, 2019 enacted by the Village Board of the Village of Margaretville, all 5 dense pages of it, was available as an example of an extensive local adoption.

Skip Parcell, owner of Delaware House Inn, had been invited to speak, due to his extensive experience as a rental host as well as his recent look into the Margaretville law. He mentioned that the issue facing Andes is being confronted by town boards all over the world and asserted that this is the future. He stated that his views have evolved after a thorough investigation, and he was emphatic in his opinion that such a detailed law would be unenforceable, a huge burden on the Town, including its code enforcement officer, and would be adding unnecessary layers of laws where there are already locals laws. Moreover, he asserted, it would be interjecting the Town into liability issues that should be borne by the property owner. It would create a punitive role for the Town vis a vis businesses that are generating income through the many visitors they attract. He put forward an alternate scenario: The Town could send letters to all property owners in the Town, suggesting that they apply for a reasonably priced permit if they are currently hosting guests, or intend to. In turn the Town could include the contact information on these permit bearers and their short-term rental websites on the Town website or a linked website. All parties, including the commercial interests in the Town, could then benefit. Skip is so convinced that regulations would be the wrong path for the Town to go down that he proclaims his belief that the Town should actually promote the fact that we don’t have these regulations. He believes that creating an atmosphere that welcomes short-term rentals would further benefit the local economy. Some property owners will improve their properties to prepare for renting out, may try it and learn it’s not for them. The net result: improved properties.

Loud or disruptive behavior on the part of transient renters, though infrequent, seemed to be the motivating force behind moves to regulate these rentals. Skip suggested that if someone is operating a short-term rental business, complaints by neighbors could go straight to grievance, directed to the homeowner, using existing local laws. There seemed to be a consensus that noise and disturbance by renters is more of an issue when the owner is not a primary local resident. Skip, who typically has multiple communications with his guests before and during their stay, said he had not experienced any complaints from neighbors.

Kristin Schneider seemed to agree that an extensive law such as the one Margaretville adopted would create an undue administrative burden, and since there is no state building code definition for this type of operation, the Town has no authority to administer such regulations anyway. (These ventures are not subject to laws designed for hotels or B&Bs.) Her goal, she said, is to work on stripping down the version we all looked at without a total hamstringing of the Town’s authority. In addition, she wants to make sure these businesses don’t have to go through site plan regulations. It was not clear to this reporter how this work in progress will end up, but it looks like Andes, if it drafts a regulation at all, will not put forth one anywhere nearly as stringent as that adopted by the Village of Margaretville.~