Dear Town of Ithaca Board,
We are writing you regarding the proposed Short Term Rental legislation in advance of your December 29, 2021 Board meeting vote. We were dismayed by the lack of concern shown by Board Members at the December 13 public hearing after hearing from many people who would be hurt by this proposed legislation including schoolteachers, lower income residents and retirees. It seemed to us that the Board had reached a point of Group Think and Decision Fatigue so that its members were no longer thinking rationally and compassionately about the impact of your decisions. This is a really poor place to be for a group making critical decisions that hurt people’s lives and livelihoods. We encourage you to vote down or table the current regulation and then to take a step back with the assistance of your two new Board members who start in January.
Sergeant Ryan Slocum from the Tompkins County Sheriff’s office made it extremely clear on December 13 that their department is fully prepared to enforce existing noise and nuisance ordinances- and have been doing so when asked. We recognize that some Ithaca Town residents may not be fully satisfied but we are firm believers that creating duplicative regulations does not solve a problem when those regulations already exist.
We share your concern about businesses impacting the housing supply by buying up houses solely for short term rentals. However, we believe that issue would be better addressed with a much simpler, less hurtful and less burdensome regulation. We volunteer to assist with this by providing you some ideas to work with.
Since the December 13 meeting, we have been carefully studying section G which provides for an exception for people who have made a financial investment in a short-term rental property. The wording makes it challenging for us as retirees to qualify for this. However, for the short-term rental businesses that your legislation is aimed at stopping, it would be very easy for them to qualify to be exempt from the new STR legislation for a long time. During your discussion on December 13, you said that you did not want to modify the language to help us as retirees or the multiple people who shared with you how this proposed legislation would severely hurt them because you were concerned about creating loopholes that the professional STRs could get through. However, you have already created a loophole the size of a barn door that allows professional STRs to continue. We urge you not to pass legislation which financially punishes your residents and includes a loophole that enables professional STRs to waltz right through!
We also wanted to point out that the Board has previously acknowledged on the record that there is long term pre-existing nonconforming use which will open up the Town to expensive and time-consuming lawsuits if this regulation is passed. You have not provided grandfather clauses, which would be a standard and reasonable approach to mitigate the damage these new regulations will cause.
We are confident that it was not intention of the Town of Ithaca Board to penalize retirees and lower property value owners with this legislation. However, we believe that is the net result of this complicated, costly and unfair proposed regulation. We urge you to vote down or at least table the current proposal and then develop much narrower, simpler legislation to address the specific issue of businesses purchasing houses solely for short term rentals.
-Craig Dunham and Megan Shay