The Village of Lansing Planning Board continued its deliberation regarding the establishment of regulations for short-term rental rooms, apartments and housing in the community by holding a public forum at its meeting on Feb. 10.
The board’s goal was to obtain feedback from the community on potential regulations to short-term rentals as well as any experience from individuals who are either owners of short-term rentals or are neighbors of a short-term rental property. A couple of members of the public spoke at the meeting, one being Crystal Mullenix.
Mullenix is a resident of Groton, but is the owner of Crystal’s Spa and Salon on 2416 North Triphammer Rd. Mullenix said she has been considering starting a senior housing complex in the village and offering short-term rental rooms for family members in the housing complex.
“I really thought it would be an amazing [feature] to give to people who live in the complex that we will be building, hopefully starting in 2020, to have somebody down the…hall,” Mullenix said.
She asked for clarification from the board on whether or not the lack of regulations for short-term rentals was an issue for a small group of people or a large group of people.
“If it’s just the small [group of] people, I don’t think it’s a big deal,” she said. “I really think that it’s not because my neighbors are loud sometimes for about a week and then it’s done. That’s it.”
Planning board member Carolyn Greenwald said the idea for developing regulations for short-term rentals spurred from one particular complaint, but the issue is much broader than that one specific instance as well.
“There was one impetus to us considering it,” Greenwald said. “At the same time, there are some real issues that are more general. So it’s kind of a combination.”
Village resident Ron Demer then spoke in front of the board, sharing his experience running a bed and breakfast out of his own home before he ended the operation. Demer had a house built in 2001 with a second floor with four bedrooms that were able to house up to eight people. He said he originally did not plan on using the second floor as a bed and breakfast, but he eventually chose to do so, specifically to offer short-term housing, which he was present on the property as a host except for graduation weekend, to the families of Cornell University ice hockey players.
“I started hosting their parents and charging them,” Demer said. “I had to charge because the NCAA … rules [say] you can’t do anything that’s favorable to athletes that you’re not doing to the normal public. So when I learned that, I had to expand this bed and breakfast that was mainly on Friday and Saturday night for hockey parents from Ontario. I had to either stop it or go public. So I went public. The Visitors Bureau was delighted. They would refer me to people and so forth. This was maybe five, six, seven years, and I probably made 10, 15 thousand dollars a year doing it.”
Demer said one of his neighbors decided to start a bed and breakfast of her own and approached the village for approval, which he said he had never done prior to starting his bed and breakfast. However, he said she was denied because it violated the village’s zoning law in that it was a business and promotional use of her home. Demer was eventually notified that he had to cease his business because of the zoning law.
He said at the time the business was not economically important to him, but presently he sees something like that being beneficial.
“I don’t have any economic need to do this, but I must admit that when I look at the cost of buying my house—I’m a single person—and what Mr. Trump has done to our taxes with regards to deductibility, it’s very expensive for me to operate my house with one person,” Demer said. “I used to get a tax break because I had $10,000 saved, so I no longer get that tax break.”
Currently, running an Airbnb is neither legal or illegal in the village, which is why the Planning Board is debating whether or not to install regulations for Airbnb’s and short-term rentals in hope of providing some definitiveness. Greenwald said when Marty Mosely was the Village Code Enforcement Officer, he took the position that short-term rentals are home occupations that require a special permit.
“The winds of New York State are not really taking that position generally,” Greenwald said. “Where people are sort of saying that it’s its own category that has to be built separately. Right now, we’re taking the position that our current code doesn’t really cover it, that we’re going to have something that does. But right now it’s operating in a grey area of accessibility.”
Chairperson Lisa Schleelein said though the board has received minimal complaints from the public regarding short-term rentals, there still needs to be some sort of regulations set in place.
“I think people have the right to use their property in a way that they feel is reasonable,” Schleelein said. “I think the one complaint we had was it was in a residential area and they were actually renting it out as a convention to businesses for Christmas parties and that sort of thing. So it can get out of hand is the point. So that’s what started this.”
“Generally, I think we’ve had few complaints, but we don’t really have any recourse to pursue this except for possibly, as we have discussed, we do have a noise ordinance. One of the things the village does not have is a police force…this is not the kind of thing that they get involved with. So we’re trying to find that balance—how to protect everyone, both the hosts as well as the neighbors.”