Loud music. Beer drinking. Skinny dipping in neighbors’ pools.
These are some of the complaints Riverhead Town is hearing from people who live near so-called party houses, according to code enforcement investigator Kevin Maccabee.
There are about 50 such houses in town, he told the Town Board Thursday. They are typically houses located in residential neighborhoods, that are rented out for one to two weeks at a time to non-family members who use them for parties.
Mr. Maccabee said this is illegal under the town code, especially if the homeowners don’t have rental permits from the town.
But when Mr. Maccabee and deputy town attorney Bill Duffy brought the matter to the Town Board’s attention at Thursday’s work session, some board members suggested the town may want to change its laws to make this legal.
“I think it’s silly,” Supervisor Sean Walter said. “I don’t see why you couldn’t rent your house for a week or two.”
“Some of these homeowners probably need that income,” Councilman George Gabrielsen said.
“I think this is a good problem to have,” Mr. Walter said. “People want to come here.”
“It’s good except when you have 25 bags of garbage out at the curb and you have people partying till 5 o’clock in the morning when neighbors are trying to sleep,” said Councilwoman Jodi Giglio.
Websites like VRBO.com routinely list dozens of North Fork houses available to rent for nights, weekends or longer chunks of time, with rates as high as $5,000 a week for a five-bedroom Jamesport house that sleeps 12 and has a sauna, tennis court, heated swimming pool and water views.
Mr. Maccabee said his department responds to the ensuing complaints from neighbors about the renters — and has gotten many complaints as of late. He said neighbors and civic associations have brought the matter to his attention and there have been petitions as well.
Jamesport is the main source of the complaints, he said, but there have been some from Wading River.
“Recently, we’ve gotten complaints about a house that is rented on the beach in Waterview Terrace in Jamesport, where, in addition to their renting the house, they’ve constructed tents on the beach,” Mr. Maccabee said. “At another house over there, there were numerous gentlemen in the house, and they basically terrorized the neighborhood by using neighbors’ pools, and allegedly skinny dipping.”
“I’ve never heard of anybody really complaining about this before,” Mr. Walter said. “I personally think that if you wanted to rent your home, maybe we could give you the ability to rent it for one or two weeks a year and get a permit from the town and be regulated.”
“The concern is that we have commercial establishments in the middle of residential communities,” Ms. Giglio said. “These homes are being commercialized, and while it’s great that people are coming here, we have hotels for that.”
“If it was just a normal group of people, for instance a family that’s going out and quietly rented the house, I’m sure it wouldn’t even be on our radar,” Mr. Maccabee said. “We wouldn’t even know it existed. But apparently, it’s a situation where they are turning into so-called party houses. If you lived next to one of these houses, you wouldn’t want that. You’re trying to raise your kids, have a quiet type of life, and then on a Thursday night at 2 a.m. you hear the guy screaming and yelling, the music, the dancing, the beer drinking.”
“My opinion is that they should be allowed to rent,” Mr. Walter said. “This helps pay people’s mortgages. But they would have to come in for a permit, so we have ability to inspect the houses.”
The town already requires permits for renting property in residential zones, Mr. Maccabee said.
Board members said they needed more time to make a decision on the issue.
Mr. Maccabee said that unless the board changes the code to allow the rentals, his department will continue to enforce the code as it is, and consider the rentals to be a violation.