Dear Town of Ithaca Board,
We are writing you regarding the proposed Short Term Rental legislation in advance of your December 13, 2021 Board meeting vote. We are strongly opposed to the Short Term Rental (STR) legislation as proposed for the following reasons. We urge you to vote down the proposed Short Term Rental legislation which we view as overreaching and unfair to retirees and homeowners not privileged to be located on the lake.
Discrimination against Retirees – as written, unless the owner currently utilizes the property as their principal residence, one’s property is not eligible for STR under section D3. We are both long term Ithaca residents who retired in 2014- since then we travel and spend winters in Florida (now Florida residents). Our 1024 Hanshaw Road house has been rented on Airbnb when we are not in Ithaca for nearly seven years. Short term Airbnb rentals work best for us because it enables us to return to our Ithaca home during the fall, winter and spring for holidays and other family events. We have never had a complaint from neighbors. We do not believe that it was your Board’s intention to cut off an income stream for retirees from Ithaca but that is one of the consequences from the proposed Short Term Rental legislation.
Capped Day Discrepancy Between Lake and Non-Lake Houses – We made a decision to buy the home in the Northeast when we sold our home in Belle Sherman which we had owned since 1995 in order to be close to Megan’s parents when they move to Kendal, even though we intended to become Florida residents. We typically rent for 80 – 100 days per year in all seasons. Even a limit of 29 days would represent a hardship impact on our finances and prohibiting any rentals is a huge impact! We bought the house with the plan that our part time presence on site would be financially viable through short term rentals, just as many Lake property owners do. We are providing advance notice to the Town of Ithaca Board that theproposed regulation is fundamentally unfair and constitutes deprivation of equal protection to give lake owners 245 unhosted days while non-lake owners get 29 days- as well as prohibiting rentals by retirees for whom the home is no longer their principal residence. In addition, it is unfair that Lake owners are not subject to the proposed short term rental provisions that: prohibit parking on the street, require that short term rentals be a principal residence, and limit rentals to a maximum of two bedrooms. Given the political party affiliations of the Board, we are shocked that the Board would propose legislation that so clearly favors owners privileged to own property on the lake and would deprive income from retirees like us as well as other people with lower value homes within the Town of Ithaca.
Owner on site for Hosted Rentals – We have an Accessory Dwelling Unit on our property with a long-term rental tenant who watches our property when we are not there. We believe that OWNER OR OWNER’S REPRESENTATIVE ON SITE is an appropriate safeguard to qualify as hosted.
Capped Occupancy - As long as a house meets code to support its occupancy, we consider it over-reaching for legislation to specify how many occupants may be in the house. It should be the owner’s prerogative to determine the number of guests on site. If this is based on an assumption that more that four guests will be noisy, that is highly discriminatory. The majority of our guests are parents of Cornell students who want to give their child a weekend of home-like time with family, adult couples meeting to tour the Finger Lakes or young families attending Cornell summer camps. They seek out our house, which comfortably hosts 8 people in beds because of its capacity.
Cost and burden of Enforcement – given that there are two ordinances already in place to address the primary nuisance complaints against STRs, NOISE and PARKING, that are not routinely enforced, we believe that passing this legislation is irresponsible and redundant. It is very clear that the already over-burdened staff of the Town who struggle to get other permits, board minutes and responses to questions about water bills addressed in a timely manner, will not be able to police the requirements created by this legislation. It is also clear that the additional administrative burden would be significant- probably requiring the hiring of several additional compliance inspectors to complete the required inspections, additional administrative people to keep track of every individual rental since that is mandated for reporting, legal defense costs for challenges to an unfair regulation and financial analyst costs to analyze the past investment clause (which allows an exception period for owners who can document lack of return on investment done for short term rentals). At the December 13 public hearing, we ask you to be prepared to share your plan to staff and administer this proposed regulation and specifically how much this legislation will increase taxes for Town of Ithaca properties.
Our understanding is that there are three key issues that the Board is trying to address with this effort: 1) Safety, 2) Noise and Nuisance and 3) Housing stock availability. However, we believe that the current legislation is not an effective solution and that it will cause unnecessary hardships. We fully support a requirement for domiciles used for STRs to undergo an inspection at some reasonable interval (every 5 - 10 years) with a corresponding permitting process to ensure safety. Noise and nuisance ordinances already exist so why not enforce them rather than adding more burdensome regulations which will be more costly to enforce than existing laws? In our case, the proposed legislation would require us to leave our Ithaca home unrented when we are gone- which reduces Ithaca housing availability rather than helping it. If the key issue is stopping the purchase of housing for the sole purpose of Short Term Rentals, then we suggest a much simpler, narrower and less costly to administer regulation to address that.
We are confident that it was not the 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 it down.